In what ways are Mr. Martin and Mrs. Barrows very different people?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The personalities of the two main characters of James Thurber's short story, "The Catbird Seat," could not be more different. Ulgine Barrows is loud and pushy, and she connives her way into the good graces of the F&S boss, Mr. Fitweiler. She "quacks" and "brays" in an irritating manner, at least to Erwin Martin. Martin is a typical Thurber man--meek, quiet, and withdrawn yet competent. The two characters begin the story in gender role reversals: Barrows is the domineering character, headstrong and confident in her new position in which she fires both men and women. She smokes, drinks scotch and soda and is a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Martin remains in the background, gossiping about the changes but maintaining a subservient stance. He is a non-smoker, drinks only milk or the occasional ginger ale, and he apparently is not a sports fan. In the end, the two reverse their roles: Martin, usually painstakingly precise, alters his plan at the last minute and becomes the loudmouth braggart who stuns the unsuspecting Barrows, pulling her into his quickly concocted yet thoroughly successful scheme.