How does James Thurber uses humor in "The Catbird Seat"?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hopefully, you, too, will find James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat" as hilarious as I have always found it. Perhaps the comic irony that Thurber utilizes is the story's strongest point. In the end, the weakest character wins out over his formidable nemesis in a battle of wits between the sexes. Erwin Martin is a typical milquetoast Thurber character: meek, mild and set in his ways. Ulgine Barrows is a woman with strong, masculine traits: She is "profane," drinks and loves baseball, unlike Martin, who is a milk drinker with little or no interest in sports. Their role reversal adds to the comic element. The fact that Martin suddenly changes his plans--from killing her to merely setting her up--is an unexpected twist that even Martin didn't expect. His transformation before Mrs. Barrow's eyes into a smoking, drinking, bomb-making doper is hilarious, as is the finale, when their boss assumes that the woman must be crazy to make such incredible assertions about the forever-bland Martin. 

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The Catbird Seat

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