Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Sam the Cat” bears some similarity to Thomas Mann’s classic novella Der Tod in Venedig (1912; Death in Venice, 1925). In Mann’s story, the central figure Aschenbach falls in love with a young boy named Tadzio and puts on makeup, just as Sam does. Neither story, however, is really about homosexuality. Death in Venice is about a man torn between the cold purity of artwork and the warm decaying flesh of a human body. “Sam the Cat” is about a man who becomes fixated on a man he initially thinks is a woman and who thus becomes a sort of woman for him. Mann’s story is about love at its most paradoxically profound, whereas Matthew Klam’s story is about desire as an obsession that human beings cannot control.

The most important theme in “Sam the Cat” centers on the relationship between Sam’s attitude toward women and his obsession with John. Although Sam says he has always wanted real love, his definition of real love has nothing to do with commitment and everything to do with desire and the illusion of romance. He says he wants cut flowers, the finest champagne, and amazing parties with a see-through dance floor. What first attracted him to his former girlfriend Annie was her gorgeous long black hair; he was disillusioned to find out that the hair was a wig and that she was bald from a disease.

Sam says he loves women and that he loves being in love, even when he does not know with whom he is in love....

(The entire section is 436 words.)