The Catbird Seat by James Thurber

Summary: The Catbird Seat by James Thurber is about Mr. Martin who has decided he must kill Mrs Barrows because she is destroying the firm he works for, but in the end he tricks his boss into thinking she has had a mental breakdown.


Mr. Erwin Martin - decides he must kill Mrs. Barrows

Mrs. Ulgine Barrows - An assistant that is redoing the format of the company

Mr. Fitweiler - the owner of the company

Miss Paird - Mr. Fitweiler's other assistant

Section One:

  • Mr. Martin has decided to "rub out" Mrs. Barrows; he likes the term because it suggest fixing a mistake
  • Mr. Martin does not like Mrs. Barrows personality; Her laughter, her comments, "silly questions" like "Are you sitting in the catbird seat"
  • The catbird seat means to be sitting pretty, or in a good position
  • Tearing up the pea patch means to go on a rampage
  • Mr. Martin thinks he will not be caught because he has planned casualness into his scheme and he is known for being extremely precise
  • Mr. Martin believes he is doing just "I demand the death penalty for this horrible person" ; he must stay focused on her wrong actions rather than her personality

Section Two:

  • Mr. Martin finally tells us that Mrs. Barrows is destroying the company he works for, she has wooed Mr. Fitweiler into thinking she has good ideas
  • People all around the company are leaving because of Mrs. Barrows
  • Mr. Martin believes his department is next to have adjustments from Mrs. Barrows because a week earlier she asked why he had so many files;
  • Mr. Martin decides to kill Mrs. Barrows before his department is ruined; He stays to his normal schedule but starts to walk over to her house

Section Three:

  • Mr. Martin arrives at Mrs. Barrows, she lets him in and he is flustered; "His heart was sheezing in his throat"
  • Mrs. Barrows ask he if wants a drink, he replies yes to a "scotch and soda" even though he does not drink
  • Mr. Martin looks for a weapon when Mrs. Barrows goes to make a drink, he thinks a letter opener will do but decides it is too blunt

Section Four:

  • Mr. Martin gets an idea , we do not know what it is;
  • Mr. Martin takes the drink from Mrs. Barrows and puffs the cigarette ; he does not grimace
  • Mr. Martin tells Mrs. Barrows he plans to kill Mr. Fitweiler; and he will be coked up with heroine when he does it
  • When Mrs. Barrows tells Mr. Martin to leave, Mr Martin tells Mrs. Barrows to keep this all to herself; then sticks his tongue at her

Section Five:

  • Mr. Martin arrives at work at the same time as everyday; Mrs. Barrows arrives early to work, she comes into the room and tells Mr. Martin she is going to tell on him; Mr. Martin replies he has no idea what she is talking about
  • Mr. Martin is called into Mr. Fitweiler's office; Fitweiler ask what Martin did the previous night; Martin says he ate and then went home
  • Mr. Fitweiler knows how habitual Martin is, he believes Mr. Martin and thinks Mrs. Barrows has had a psychotic episode
  • Mr. Barrows burst in the door to Mr. Fitweiler's office and tells him Martin is lying; she is escorted out of the building
  • Mr. Fitweiler tells Mr. Martin it is not his fault because Mrs. Barrows was planning on redoing the format of Mr. Martins department; thus Mr. Martin was on her mind and when the phsycotic break happened she focused on him

Other Notes:

  • The expressions Mrs. Barrows uses probably come from an announcer for the dodgers; he got them from the south
  • Mr. Martin believes Mrs. Barrows is destroying the firm; "she had begin chipping at the cornices of the firm's edifice and now she was swinging at the foundation stones with a pickax"
  • Mr. Martin follows all his routines like normal on the day he plans the murder so people will not suspect anything unusual of him
  • Mr. Martin was planning on kill Mrs. Barrows until he cannot find a weapon to kill her with

© 2009 copyright The Catbird Seat | James Thurber