The Cat Within

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The first instance of humor within the story occurs when an unsuspecting cat gets its head caught in an upturned jug, and struggled to free itself. As a result the residents of the block mistake the hysterical cat for a thief, and later, a spirit. Here Narayan uses dramatic irony as the reader is aware of the fact that the ‘devilish creature' haunting the store is, in fact, a cat, while the characters do not. Thus, one views the resident's reactions as naïve and comically exaggerated. Furthermore, the residents are kept from finding out the truth about the haunting until the end, due to the absence of ‘electric lights', to determine what the ‘devilish creature' was.

Another instance of humor in the mock haunting of the property is the way Narayan portrays the shopkeeper as a selfish businessman, bleeding ‘maximum rent' out of his tenants. The reader would then view the cat's and the exorcist's antics as retribution for the shopkeeper. The story would then take a more humorous nature as well, as the reader feels no pity for the shopkeeper. Conversely, one feels pity for his tenants, making the shopkeeper's predicament a comical one.

Yet another humorous detail is the fact that one of the tenants is a ‘professional exorcist'. However, the ‘professional exorcist' is a fraud. Coupled with the mistaken assumption that the hysterical, jug-headed cat was a spirit, it is ironic to note that Narayan is pitting fraud against fraud. The comedy materializes as the exorcist's mistaken assumptions, proclaiming that the shop had been afflicted by the ‘jug spirit', due to ‘karma'. The reader knows as these are false statements, as the exorcist was just making it up, not having time to ‘frame a charge and go into details.'

I believe that the exorcist is the source of the most humor within the story. In addition to his false proclamations, one would also find his absurd spirit-purging rituals humorous. Narayan gives an extremely detailed description of how the...
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