The Catbird Seat

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“The Catbird Seat” Questions 1-9

1. Throughout the story suspense is aroused and maintained excellently. This is achieved by the character the author creates. Mr. Martin is characterized as a neat and cautious man, who never took a smoke or a drink in his life. Our suspense is aroused when the author states that it has been “a week to the day since Mr. Martin had decided to rub out Mrs. Ulgine Barrows”. This arouses our suspense because we are told Mr. Martin is planning to murder this woman. The suspense is maintained with Mr. Martin’s thoughts. We as an audience are given his thoughts through the use of the 3rd person omniscient point of view. His thoughts are mostly on the issue on his dislike of Mrs. Barrows. Because of this, he is plotting her murder. As the story continues Mr. Martin carries out his evil plan, which he has been creating in his mind for the past week. When he enters her apartment, the plan fails because of the lack, in his opinion, of appropriate instruments for murder. The surprise comes when Mr. Martin acts out of character by smoking, drinking, speaking out against his employer and not murdering Mrs. Barrows. This was all part of his new plan which he thought of in her apartment. “The idea began to bloom, strange and wonderful”, as stated by the narrator. The ultimate surprise is seen when instead of killing her; he gets her fired due to her “mental breakdown”. His goal of ridding her of his life was finally completed.

2. The events of the story are mainly told through Mr. Erwin Martin’s consciousness. The story is told in the limited 3rd person point of view. This is clearly true because, as an audience we are only given the thoughts and feelings of one character. There are many examples to rectify claim of the point of view. One example is when Mr. Martin is walking home from work. In this situation the narrator knows what Erwin’s thoughts were by using the word “wondered”. The passage was “He wondered, as he did so, if they did not represent an unnecessary note of strain.” In this in particular sentence the author exhibits his choice of the limited omniscient point of view.We are most fully taken into Erwin’s mind after he leaves work on the day he plans to murder Mrs. Barrows. We also further delve into his mind as he readjusts his plan during his stay in her apartment. The chief purpose of this exposure to Mr. Martin’s thoughts is to gain greater insight, and to add suspense. This is seen when Erwin changes his plan because he cannot find a murder weapon. He goes completely out of character and this causes us to wonder why he did this. We are later revealed his intentions by what happens the next morning at his work.

3. Mr. Martin’s plans change when he enters Mrs. Barrows apartment and cannot find an appropriate tool to kill Mrs. Barrows with. His plans change from a brute murder to an intellectual manipulation of his presumed character. I believe the point of view is consistent throughout the story. Since the point of view is limited omniscient we are in the mind of Mr. Martin. At the point in the story where his plans switch, the point of view does not change, but rather we become less exposed to the thoughts and feelings of Mr. Martin. A quote from the story which gives the point where his plan switched was, “The idea began to bloom, strange and wonderful”. Thurber decreases our exposure to Mr. Martin’s thoughts because it strengthens the purpose of the story. The story exhibits the troubles men and women had in the workplace in the 40s and the feelings they had towards each other. In this story the stereotypes are switched and we know this through the point of view. Since we know all of Mr. Martin’s thoughts we know the struggle that he faces and the extreme way in which he tries to resolve it. The problem, Mrs. Barrows, is characterized by the secondary roaming camera aspect of the third person point of view. We don’t know her thoughts but we do know what kind of...
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