What is the theme in "The Catbird Seat"?  

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Thurber explores two of his usual themes in the hilarious short story, "The Catbird Seat." One of the themes is the Battle of the Sexes--in this case, the reversal of roles between men and women. As in many of Thurber's stories, the woman is the dominant character, and the man is the weakling. Such is the case with Erwin Martin and Ulgine Barrows. Barrows is the strong-minded woman who smokes, drinks, loves baseball and laughs too loud; Martin is the milquetoast man who doesn't smoke or like sports and prefers milk. In the end, as usual with Thurber, the weaker of the sexes--the man--finds a way to overcome the strengths of the woman.

A second theme is that of alienation and loneliness. Although both of the characters are single, Barrows enjoys an active social life, and it is her outgoing personality that has helped her to ascend to a higher position in the company. A predictable and never-changing loner, Martin has remained stagnant at his position, and he is perfectly content with his job--until Barrows' appearance threatens his own security. Luckily for Martin, he is able to recognize his own weaknesses and, in the end, he uses them to turn the tables on his nemesis.