‘The Cat’ by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

The Cat by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, 1900

The magic trick:

Putting the reader into a cat’s point of view while retaining a sense of realism in the story

Not a holiday story per se, but of the right temperament and temperature.

“The Cat” anthropomorphizes its title character, which I’m sure might put people off. But don’t write it off as cheesy kids lit. You’d be missing a very good story.

The anthropomorphizing is interestingly done. It’s not like the cat talks or flies or walks on rainbows. It’s fairly realistic. The cat simply has the ability to use logic and feel emotions. Nothing crazy. But it might be a little much for some readers to believe.

If you do go with the story that far, you’ll find a man vs. man vs. nature situation. Man plus cat vs. nature? There’s a lot here to consider.

What is maybe most remarkable is that even as you know the cat is only a cat, you’ll likely find yourself reading the story from its perspective. The cat is more relatable to the reader than are the men in the story. And that’s quite a trick on Freeman’s part.

The selection:

Then there was a great battering pound at the door, then another, and another. The Cat dragged his rabbit under the bed. The blows came thicker and faster. It was a weak arm which gave them, but it was nerved by desperation. Finally the lock yielded, and the stranger came in. Then the Cat, peering from under the bed, blinked with a sudden light, and his green eyes narrowed. The stranger struck a match and looked about. The Cat saw a face wild and blue with hunger and cold, and a man who looked poorer and older than his poor old master, who was an outcast among men for his poverty and lowly mystery of antecedents; and he heard a muttered, unintelligible voicing of distress from the harsh, piteous mouth. There was in it both profanity and prayer, but the Cat knew nothing of that.

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