James Thurber’s, The Catbird Seat narrates a story about Mr. Martin, a man who is a loyal employee at the company F&S. Mr. Martin begins to notice the increased layoffs and begins to worry about his fate. He decides to take drastic measures against Mrs. Barrows, the new supervisor, whom he sees as the culprit for the layoffs. Mr. Martin is perceived as a quiet, sexist, and weak masculine figure. While Mrs. Barrows is described as independent and outspoken, a combination he finds frustrating. This major character foil, along with the fear of being fired, caused the tension that led to Mr. Martin fantasizing to “rub out Mrs. Ulgine Barrows”(1). Due to the depiction of Mr. Martin as a methodical, weak, wise man it is demonstrated that it was not in his character to kill Mrs. Barrows.
The changes that were brought by Mrs. Barrows irritated and annoyed Mr. Martin. He had a daily routine, a routine which he would not change. Mr. Martin feels Mrs. Barrows as a menacing presence. She had come to alter and change his organized and structured world. Mr. Martin considered that Mrs. Barrows’ “willful, blatant, and persistent attempts destroyed the efficiency and system of F&S”(2). He feels threatened by Mrs. Barrows’ abrasive personality and is disturbed by her erratic behavior. Mr. Martin blames Mrs. Barrows for the disorder being caused at F&S. For example, she had fired several employees and even caused some employees to quit. Mr. Martin starts to become increasingly miserable and displeased with the many modifications that were brought by Mrs. Barrows and rather than speak up about his discomfort he begins to imagine and plan Mrs. Barrows being “rubbed out”.
It was Mr. Martin’s weak character that led to his dependency on his job at F&S. His self-worth comes from excelling in his department. His weak character is often demonstrated by his need to be praised and congratulated about his work. Mr. Martin holds with high regard the compliments concerning his work ethic, “Our most efficient worker neither drinks nor smokes, the results speak for themselves”(2).The comments gave him satisfaction. Mr. Martin’s self- value is constructed and centered around his job position. Mr. Martin felt threatened when Mrs. Barrows began to fire workers she considered unnecessary. Mr. Martin sensed that his job at F&S was at risk when Mrs. Barrows mentions, “You sure have a lot of fine scrap in here!”(2). As the risk Mrs. Barrows posed increased, so did Mr. Martin’s negative feelings against her. He made it his mission to get rid of Mrs. Barrows in order to save his job at F&S.
Mr. Martin was a smart man, and often thought three steps ahead....