In "Catbird Seat" why does Mr Martin pretend to vices he doesn't have, insult his employer, and stick his tongue out at Mrs Barrows?The Catbird Seat by James Thurber

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. Martin perceives Ulgine Barrows as a threat to his filing department and possibly a threat to his own job. He knows he has a reputation of being a very meek, conservative man with regular habits and no vices. He puts on a big act with Ulgine Barrows, knowing that she is going to report everything he says and does to their employer Mr. Fitweiler as soon as possible. When she tells their boss about Martin's behavior the night before, her report, as expected, sound so outlandish that Mr. Fitweiler thinks she has lost her mind and not only discharges her but has to have her taken away to an asylum when she becomes enraged and seems about to attack Martin, who naturally has denied everything.

This kind of psychological warfare between men and women is one of James Thurber's favorite humorous themes in his stories, essays and cartoons. Another good example in a short story is Thurber's "The Unicorn in the Garden." He was a contributor and staff writer for the New Yorker magazine almost from its inception, and he is generally regarded as one of America's best humorists.