All Cats Are Gray Analysis
by Andre Norton

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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The events of "All Cats Are Gray" take place in a future when human beings have mastered interplanetary travel. The society seems to be a complex one, although the action focuses primarily on freighter captains and their lives, which are devoted to making enough money to stay ahead of their creditors. Steena does not speak much, so there is no telling whether she suffers the same financial embarrassments as her peers, but her steady, almost stoic demeanor is well suited to a life among asteroids and taverns, with little company besides her cat.

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The narrator of "All Cats Are Gray" affects a tough-guy tone:

For I was there, right in the Rigel Royal, when it all began on the night that Cliff Moran blew in, looking lower than an antman's belly and twice as nasty. He'd had a spell of luck foul enough to twist a man into a slug snake, and we all knew that there was an attachment out for his ship. Cliff had fought his way up from the back courts of Venaport. Lose his ship and he'd slip back there—to rot. He was at the snarling stage that night when he picked out a table for himself and set out to drink away his troubles.

This style seems exactly right for a tale of two hard-bitten people making some good luck for themselves while overcoming a terrible danger. The style is also humorous, reminding us that the tale is for entertainment. The strained metaphors are particularly amusing, with phrases such as "lower than an antman's belly and twice as nasty" adding to the fun of the story.

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In the workaday world of Steena, men and women seem to mingle as equals. There is no suggestion that her status as a free spacer is at all unusual for a woman. Indeed, she seems to naturally belong with the tough, hard living space farers, and she seems to be accepted as a matter of course. The ending of "All Cats Are Gray" has a slight "she found her man" aspect to it, but it is primarily representative of Steena's breaking out of her self-imposed loneliness. It shows that she has learned to accept herself as she is, symbolized by the colorful baubles that she wears when she is out with her husband and Bat. Before, she retreated into gray places and into the grayness of herself. Her adventure on the Empress of Mars, in which she put her disability to good use, seems to have opened her to mingle among a colorful world without being self-conscious.

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Clute, John and Peter Nicholls. "Norton, Andre." In The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Edited by John Clute and Peter Nicholls, et al. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1995, pp. 877-878. Summarizes Norton's career and identifies key publications in her development as a writer.

Jones, J. Sydney. "Norton, Andre." In Something about the Author. Volume 91. Edited by Alan Hedblad. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997, pp. 148-156. This article includes an extensive bibliography of Norton's publications plus several pages summarizing her career, focusing mostly on her recent works.

Platt, Charles. "Andre Norton." In his Dream Makers: Volume II. New York: Berkley Books, 1983, pp. 95-102. This interview provides a snapshot of Norton in the late 1960s or early 1970s. And yes, she has a cat she introduces to Platt. It is Ty, an Abyssinian who, Norton points out, is unusually reddish, Abyssinians usually being gray.

Schlobin, Roger C. Andre Norton: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980. By 1980, Norton had been publishing for almost fifty years. This book covers what was by then an enormous corpus of works by and about Norton.