What is the summary of James Thurber's The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities is a 1931 short fiction and humor collection by author and illustrator James Thurber, featuring pieces that were previously published in The New Yorker.

“Part One: Mrs. and Mrs. Monroe” contains a series of stories portraying a young couple and...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities is a 1931 short fiction and humor collection by author and illustrator James Thurber, featuring pieces that were previously published in The New Yorker.

“Part One: Mrs. and Mrs. Monroe” contains a series of stories portraying a young couple and is an example of the “battle of the sexes” theme that frequently appeared in Thurber’s works. Mr. Monroe wants to be seen as a successful, dynamic man, yet the opposite is more often the case. Mrs. Monroe often undercuts her husband or puts him on the spot, as demonstrated in the section’s opening lines when the couple attends a tea party:

“My husband,” said little Mrs. Monroe, “is a collector.”

This statement surprised no one more than Mr. Monroe, who was not a collector.

Yet Mrs. Monroe lets her husband believe he’s the strong one—for instance, she asks him to kill a spider for her. He gladly obliges and then panics when a bat flies into their home. With his indecisive, dreamy nature and social awkwardness, Mr. Monroe bears a resemblance to Thurber’s more famous character Walter Mitty.

“Part Two: The Pet Department” is a droll satire on the pet advice column from the New York Evening Post and features Thurber’s illustrations of whimsical animals. In a series of letters, a columnist answers questions from pet owners with a tone that becomes increasingly arch.

“Part Three: Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Guide to Modern English” satirizes the textbooks and advice guides of Thurber’s era such as the cited “Dictionary of Modern English Usage” by Fowler. In this section, the narrator of a fictional guide describes English grammar problems alongside satirical observations on society in the erudite tone of a professor or etiquette expert who advised Jazz Age aspirants on proper grammar and elocution.

The Owl in the Attic and other Perplexities serves as an accessible introduction to Thurber’s works.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team