What is the theme in "The Catbird Seat"?  

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Another theme of the story is the perennial literary favorite of the worm that turned. You're doubtless familiar with movies where a high school loser goes from being zero to hero, and it's pretty much the same trope that's being used here. Erwin Martin is about as meek and as mild-mannered as is possible. So when the brash, over-confident, fiercely ambitious Mrs. Barrows arrives on the scene, it seems just a matter of time before Erwin's entire little world comes crashing down around his ears. However, like the high school loser in countless movies, Erwin has an advantage that his antagonist doesn't have. As well as being smart, he also has a very vivid imagination, which allows him to cook up an elaborate scheme to get Mrs. Barrows out of his life and the company, once and for all. By the end of the story we're left in no doubt that the worm has well and truly turned and that Erwin is now firmly in the catbird seat.

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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.

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