A Modern Fable: “The Catbird Seat” by James Thurber Essay

A Modern Fable: “The Catbird Seat” by James Thurber Essay

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This short story entitled “The Catbird Seat” is a modern fable. The definition of a fable is a simple story with animal characters in which the big strong animal is bested, overcome by, or made a fool of by the weaker character. A modern fable is a fable that takes place in modern times. This short story by James Thurber takes place in New York City around the 1940s. Many fables written before are very much alike “The Catbird Seat” when it comes to being a fable. For example, in “The Tortoise and the Hare” the cocky, arrogant rabbit keeps on boasting about how speedy he is to the scrawny, sluggish turtle. In the end, the turtle overcomes the pompous rabbit in a race because the rabbit underestimated the turtle. Also, in “Henny Penny”, Henny Penny gets tricked by a malicious, large fox named Foxy Loxy into bringing all her friends into his cave to be eaten. Henny Penny gets rid of Foxy Loxy using her cleverness to trap him. These short stories demonstrate many of the qualities of a fable. “The Catbird Seat also includes the framework of a fable.
Ms. Ulgine Barrows is the Foxy Loxy of this modern fable. She is the bulky, obnoxious, and arrogant animal in this story always bullying the people around her. The author uses many examples of animal imagery to paint a picture of Ulgine. She would always romp like a circus horse around the offices, elevators, and hallways of F. & S., the company she works for. She profaned the halls with her quacking voice and braying laugh. A few of “Ugline’s” masculine features such as being huge, burly, and built suggested that she was an ox rampaging around the halls of F. & S. Her last name Barrows resembles a burrow. Her first name, Ulgine, resembles “Ugline” making her appear as an unsightly creatu...


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... Seat” is a modern fable because the meaning of a fable suggests that this story is a fable. The moral of this fable was that “Brains Beat Brawn.” “The Catbird Seat” has shown many qualities of a fable that other fables have shown. There were two animals in which one was weaker and clever and the other was stronger and bigger. The bigger animal, Ms. Barrows was always bullying the weaker character, Mr. Martin. In the end, the weaker character defeated the bigger character not with strength but with cunningness, cleverness, and intelligence. This happened because the mightier character was an arrogant, self-centered, and cocky animal. The weaker character’s unexpected clever plan to trick the overconfident character taught the larger character a lesson. All of this criteria for a fable happens in “The Catbird Seat” which means the “The Catbird Seat is a modern fable.

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