Edwin Denby

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What is the theme of the poem “A Domestic Cat” by Edwin Denby? What literary devices does the poet use?

Themes of “A Domestic Cat” by Edwin Denby include friendship and life and death. The literary devices used in this poem include imagery and rhyme.

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One theme of Edwin Denby ’s poem “A Domestic Cat” is friendship. Although the cat is an animal and the speaker is a human, the “gap” that “lies between cat and men” is not so great. The cat and the speaker eat together, talk, and live together. Like most friendships,...

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One theme of Edwin Denby’s poem “A Domestic Cat” is friendship. Although the cat is an animal and the speaker is a human, the “gap” that “lies between cat and men” is not so great. The cat and the speaker eat together, talk, and live together. Like most friendships, there’s occasional conflict. When the cat hears a “stamping walk”—perhaps one of the speaker’s other friends coming up to the apartment—the cat grows jealous and sulks under the bed.

Another theme that’s evident in Denby’s poem is life and death. At the end of the first stanza, Denby brings up the ubiquitous presence of death. It “frames” the cat and the speaker. Death occurs again in the final stanza, with the soldier at war's dream about the kitten hung by a string. The kitten isn’t dead, neither is the soldier (at least not yet). Nevertheless, the soldier—like the kitten, the cat, and the speaker—is framed by death.

In between the stanzas that touch on death, there’s lots of life. The cat eats, goes on adventures, gives birth, and enjoys life’s quieter moments with the speaker.

As for literary devices that Denby uses in the poem, imagery seems to be a central tool. Throughout the poem, Denby creates vivid pictures of the cat. With fine detail, he depicts her walk, her way of eating, and how she cares for her kittens.

A second literary device to consider is rhyme. Denby employs a regular rhyme scheme in all five stanzas. The melody produces a rhythm that reinforces the grace of the cat or, arguably, the patterns in life and death.

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