Character Analysis of The Catbird Seat by James Thurber

Updated on November 1, 2018
James Thurber. the author of the short story "The Catbird Seat."
James Thurber. the author of the short story "The Catbird Seat." | Source

A note on underlined sentences

Underlined portions denote the thesis statement, as well as the topic sentence in the following paragraphs.

Character Analysis of The Catbird Seat

“The Catbird Seat” by James Thurber is a story of how a dull man in charge of F & S’s filing department decides to get rid of a woman who is changing the entire way the company is run. He believes she is “[swinging] at the foundation stones with a pickax.” The entire office believes he is nothing more than a dull little man. However, Mr. Erwin Martin knows that everyone believes this, and uses it to his advantage. Mr. Martin displays the characteristic of being a cunning person. Mr. Martin shows extreme cunning through the portrayal of his image to other people, through the meticulous planning of his plot to “rub out” Mrs. Barrows, as well as through the execution and cover-up of this plot.

Where to read The Catbird Seat for Free

Find a free copy of The Catbird Seat online.

Mr. Martin - A Man of Habit

Mr. Martin portrays himself to others as being a dull person, even though on the inside he plans to kill a woman. He adores order and does not change much. Mr. Martin arrives at the office usually at eight-thirty in the morning; he leaves work and walks home at five-thirty. Then he drinks a glass of milk; at eight in the evenings he goes to eat at Schrafft’s, by a quarter to nine he is done and reading the financial section of the paper. After dinner, he takes a walk then goes home. This was a daily routine. He is meticulous. This is what has helped him keep a job in the filing department for twenty-two years. In addition, he is F & S’s “most efficient worker, [he] neither drinks nor smokes.” He even stays so polite to Mrs. Barrows, a woman that he despises, that a co-worker thought that Mr. Martin “like[s] that woman.” Everyone knows these things about him. Mr. Martin is careful to use his known habits to his advantage while plotting.

The Cunning of Mr. Martin

Mr. Martin shows his cunning as he plans the rubbing out of Mrs. Barrows. He once again shows how meticulous he is by plotting every night for a week. He forms a plan that follows his daily schedule. Nothing in the plan, except for buying the cigarettes, forces him to go out of his normal way. Mr. Martin finds himself in such a position though that no one would ever suspect him. One might say that he is “sitting in the catbird seat” by how pretty he was sitting.

Listen to The Catbird Seat by James Thurber Part 1

The Rubbing Out of Mrs. Barrows

Mr. Martin continues to show the reader his cunningness with the execution of his plan. Mr. Martin follows his plan exactly until it came time to kill Mrs. Barrows. Once he was within her house, he realizes how poorly he has planned, and that his plan is rather naive. He quickly changes his intentions as an idea forms in his head. He fulfills what Mr. Fitweiler once said, “Man is fallible but Martin isn’t.” Mr. Martin does not fail. He does everything that everyone in the office knew he does not do to make Mrs. Barrows seem insane. If he cannot rub her out by killing her, then he will simply rub her out of his own life. The next day he did not change his schedule from normal at all or act as if he knew what Mrs. Barrows was talking about as she accused him. Nor did he gloat as Mrs. Barrows is essentially carried away. Because of his cunning, no one suspects him.

Mr. Martin is a prime example of the fact that people are not always, what they appear to be. His cunningness allows him to appear to be “a drab, ordinary little man.” Yet the reader knows that he is a scheming little creature who dislikes change and anyone who brings it with them. He purposefully plays off his image and his known schedule to rid F & S, as well as himself, of Mrs. Ulgine Barrows.

The Catbird Seat - Part 2

The Catbird Seat - Part 3

Paper Outline

I. Central Idea: In James Thurber’s “The Catbird Seat,” Mr. Martin displays the characteristic of being cunning person.

Thesis: Mr. Martin shows extreme cunning through his portrayal of image to other people, his meticulous planning of his plot to “rub out” Mrs. Barrows, as well as through the execution and cover-up of this plot.

II. Topic Sentence 1: Mr. Martin portrays himself to others as being a dull person, even though on the inside he plans to kill a woman.

III. Topic Sentence 2: Mr. Martin shows his cunning in the planning of his rubbing out of Mrs. Barrows.

IV. Topic Sentence 3: Mr. Martin continues to show the reader his cunningness with the execution of his plan.

V. Conclusion: People are not always what they appear to be.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

        ThoughtSandwiches 

        7 years ago from Reno, Nevada

        hi hrymel...

        The Catbird Seat is perhaps one of my favorite short stories! You have presented an excellent analyses of Mr. Martin and have reminded me of how much I enjoy Thurber.

        Thanks,

        Thomas

        PS...Congrats on your 10th Hub!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)