Who are the major and minor characters in "The Catbird Seat"? Explain the characters.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are only three characters in James Thurber's story "The Catbird Seat." Erwin Martin and Ulgine Barrows are major characters and Mr. Fitweller is a minor character. Erwin Martin is a timid, sensitive, mild-mannered little man who is head of the accounting department. Mr. Fitwell, president of the New York company, brings in a vulgar, loud, obnoxious woman named Ulgine Barrows as a self-styled efficiency expert who proceeds to shake up the firm's entire organization and creates chaos in the process. She has a habit of using expressions she picked up from a radio sports announcer, including "sitting in the catbird seat," which the narrator explains means being in a position of advantage. When Martin finds that Ulgine has her eye on reorganizing his beloved filing department, he plots to murder her. He goes to her apartment one night and gives her the impression that he is not the wimp he pretends to be at work but is secretly wild and homicidal and that he plans to murder Mr. Fitweller. When she reports him next day, he denies everything and makes the boss believe his efficiency expert is insane and delusional. Fitwell ends up firing the woman instead of firing Martin. There is a similarity between "The Catbird Seat" and "The Unicorn in the Garden," which is also covered by eNotes.


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