Free «Tactful Erwin Eliminates the Trusted Barrows » Essay Sample


The author, James Thurber, symbolically uses the title of the story 'The Catbird Seat"  as revealed through Joey a character in the story that the title means sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him. In the story, Mrs. Ulgerine Barrows has only been at F & S for only two years as compared to Mr. Erwin Martin who has worked there for twenty two years yet she effects changes in the company in a way that he doesn't like especially the idea that she has been trailing his foot steps for the past two years.  The writer states that Mr. Martin got shocked the first time Mrs. Barrows gets introduced to him as much as he did not show it. The many expressions that were hulled at him also do not amuse him. The fact that Mr. Martin has been baited by Mrs. Barrows for almost two years while shouting the silly questions in the halls, elevator and his office do not please him at all thus enough reason to make him dislike her.

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First Main Point

Mr. Martin dislikes Mrs. Barrows to a point that he engineers a plot to eliminate her. The statement, 'Gentlemen of the jury,' he said to himself, 'I demand the death penalty for this horrible person.' also mark the beginning of his plot .The story reveals the excerpt  ' Mr.

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Martin came now, in his summing up, to the afternoon of Monday, November 2,1942-just one week ago....,'  the after which he goes ahead to execute his plot.. The following day Mr. Martin follows his usual routine. The only difference being the polishing of his glasses which he does more often than normal and the sharpening of the already sharpened knife. Lucky enough nobody notices, not even Miss Paird. The story reveals that he had spent every night in the past week working out his plan and examining it. In addition, the possible risks were considered in the event that anything could go wrong. After his dinner and reading the newspaper he takes a walk as his custom dictated. He then walked to the Fifth Avenue casually. He went to her apartment and tried to find a weapon which according to his plan, he intended to finish her off. This statement in the story clearly depicts his intention to eliminate her, "..... It was his idea to puff a few puffs on a Camel (after the rubbing-out), stub it out in the ashtray holding her lipstick-stained Luckies, and thus drag a small red herring across the trail.''. However his plan did not go as expected. The knife not being sharp enough forces him to think of something else which he does. The question that 'Would it be sharp enough', signifies that Mr.

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Martin wants to use the knife to stub her.  


Main Body

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Mr. Martin's life is very rigid and structured. It is known that he goes home from work at five thirty and takes a glass of milk. He never drinks anything strong. He had even been praised by Sam Schlosser at a staff meeting as being efficient and neither drinks nor smokes an opinion which Mr. Fitweiler approves and believes all this time to date.  It was also known that after dinner he takes a walk but on this material day he heads down Fifth Avenue at a rather casual pace. Mr. Martin took advantage of this situation in a way that when he was asked if he had visited Mrs. Barrows place the previous evening, he simply denies and that is how he gets off the hook. He chooses to go to her place at a time when few people are around so that no one can notice him. The fact that Mr. Martin sacrifices to change his way of doing things just to eliminate Mrs. Barrows shows the degree to which he detests her.   

Mr. Martin's reactions towards Mrs. Barrow's questions show how he dislikes her. The first expression, 'are you lifting the oxcart out of the ditch?' makes him squirm slightly. The story even describes that they were silly. She kept shouting the questions at him over the years. The other questions were,' are you scraping around the bottom of the pickle barrel?', 'are you tearing up the pea patch?' which meant going on a rampage and 'are you sitting in the catbird?' which meant sitting pretty like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him.

The story reveals that Mr. Martin dismissed all this after his assistant Joey Hart had explains them to him. The story goes ahead to disclose the annoyance and his being driven close to distraction. When Mrs. Barrows asks whether Mr. Martin needed all the files, his heart jumped showing that he did not like her presence as much as he kept his even voice when answering the question.      

Character wise Mrs. Barrows is opportunistic in such a way she takes advantage of being the special adviser to the president of the firm. This situation comes clear when she effects changes in the company without thinking how it affects the employees. This illustration can also be used to describe her as insensitive. She simply does not care how her actions will affect other people especially the employees of the company.  On the other hand Mr. Martin tactfully takes his time (a whole) week to plan on a plot that could facilitate Mrs. Barrows elimination. He even goes ahead to consider the risks that could come up during the execution of his project.

He also conservatively enjoys the status quo such that when Mrs. Barrows comes into the picture he carefully designs a plot to eliminate her because he does not like the changes that brings into the company.


The story brings to attention a number of ironical situations. Ironically, Mrs. Barrows tells of how Mr. Martin talked about the president at her apartment expecting that he would be fired but instead she faces the axe. In addition Mr. Martin ironically plans and even thinks of how to eliminate Mrs. Barrows by killing her (the weapon- blunt knife) but instead she get sacked by the president.     


In conclusion Mr. Martin wisely handles the events in the story. This attribute also qualifies as a trait that can be associated with him. After realizing that he can not kill her using the sharp knife he automatically switches to tell her about the president. She takes the bait. The events which come after this one result into her sacking. He also understands very clearly that after he executes his plan, nobody will believe that he could do anything like that. This leaves him on the safe side.

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