William Butler Yeats

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What is the theme of “The Cat and the Moon” by William Butler Yeats? What are the similarities and differences between the cat and moon?

The theme of “The Cat and the Moon” by William Butler Yeats could center on opposites and attraction. The cat and the moon both possess enticing qualities, with the moon more stoic and the cat more overt.

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The theme of “The Cat and the Moon” might be opposites. In the poem, W. B. Yeats depicts the two figures as not having much in common. Besides their fundamental differences (a moon is a satellite object; a cat is a mammal), there’s an array of divergent characteristics. It’s as...

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The theme of “The Cat and the Moon” might be opposites. In the poem, W. B. Yeats depicts the two figures as not having much in common. Besides their fundamental differences (a moon is a satellite object; a cat is a mammal), there’s an array of divergent characteristics. It’s as if the moon and the cat are people with clashing personalities. The cat is lively and nimble; it wanders and wails throughout the land. The moon appears dispassionate and covert; its light is “cold,” and its phases aren’t as explicit as the movements of the cat.

In addition to the theme of opposites, it’s possible to claim that the theme of attraction is important to the poem. As incompatible as they seem, something attracts them to one another. The moon’s light stimulates the cat. Meanwhile, the cat’s dances inspire the moon to try out something other than its “courtly fashion.” The ending of the poem provides further evidence of the attraction between the cat and the moon. The cat and the moon make eye contact as if they’re inevitably drawn to one another.

Another way to analyze this poem is through an autobiographical lens. The theme of opposites and attraction might relate to Yeats and his love for Maud Gonne. Minnaloushe was the name of a cat in Gonne’s family. Like the cat and the moon, Yeats and Gonne were enticed by one another even though they were somewhat mismatched. Similar to the cat and the moon, Yeats and Gonne’s romance remained elusive. They each married someone else.

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