Discussion of Kristen Roupenian's "Cat Person"

 Post your answer in the comments below. Make sure to include the number of the question you're answering and either cut and paste the question or answer in complete sentences so that we know which question you're answering.


A-2, B-3, C-4, D-5, E-6, F-7, G-8, H-9, I-10, J-11, K-12, L-13, M-1

If you have further thoughts or questions about the story, please feel to also post these below. 

13 Questions To Ask of Every Story: 

1.          What makes this story “literary”? 

 

2.          Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?

 

3.          Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?

 

4.          Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?

 

5.          Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?

 

6.          Character: In what ways does the writer show character?

 

7.          Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?

 

8.          Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

 

9.          Setting: How does the setting work within the story? What are the key places, and in how does the writer describe them?

 

10.      Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?

 

11.      Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

 

12.      What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it? 


13.    How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

Comments

  1. 12. What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it?

    As a reader I feel like this story is supposed to be about relationships, and how we treat other people in relationships. I feel like while the story focuses on Margot's side of the relationship I also feel like this story also humanizes Roger a bit too with how he acts around her and especially at the end with his final texts to her. Showing his frustration and anger at this situation. As well as a reader another take away is that it's important to have good communication in a relationship. A lot of the thoughts that Margot and Robert have are stored inside for most of the story and if they were able to just talk through their thoughts maybe they would have ended (or turned to friendship) in a more civil way. As well a lot of times when we are trying not to hurt someone's feelings we can sometimes hurt them worse in the end.
    As writers I feel like this story shows that you can write a polarizing characters and still have an engaging story. I personally don't agree with Margot's actions and she should have been more honest, but at the same time I understand there is a bit of fear with coming clean to Robert. I also don't agree with how Robert's reaction at the end of the story, but at the same time I understand that he's probably feeling hurt as well. With those two characters I also learn more about how to have human characters that make believable actions. Both characters feel well rounded, so in the end I understand why they thought and acted the way they did.

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    1. With the article I understand where a lot of people are coming from with this story where it seems relatable. With how relatable it is I understand that a lot of people probably take it personally or think that it is a non-fiction piece. As we've discussed in this class throughout the semester literary fiction is all about looking into the human condition in all it's squishy uncomfortable topics. This story came out in a time where people are really vocal about this kind of topic of relationships. I feel from looking at some of the comments on the article and visiting the "Men React to Cat Person" I feel like many people are taking this story to be a "Man vs Woman" story. I personally don't feel like the story is that way. As well boiling a whole story down to a single tweet of "X is bad." or "The story is about an unhappy woman and a mean man." removes how complex the story really is. I read it as people putting up barriers to avoid accepting an uncomfortable part of the human condition.

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    2. 4. Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?

      The rich ground situation of this story is the uncomfortable and awkwardness of their relationship. They are constantly questioning how the other feels and if they are doing the right thing. This gets complicated as Margot begins to lose feelings for Robert but she still feels as though she must follow through with their date and relationship. The entire story is based around their relationship and the ups and downs that it faces. Margot is conflicted about how she should respond to Robert and how she feels about him.

      -Bailey

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  2. 6. Character: In what ways does the writer show character?
    The writer shows character by having Margot clearly being uncomfortable during the date even if it's not said out right. This starts after they see the depressing Holocaust movie for their first date and how they barley even talk to each through out the date. Another great example of character is when Margot can't bring herself to break up with him so her room mate does it in her place. This shows that while she doesn't want to hurt him, she also doesn't want him to message her anymore.
    -Michael

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  3. What makes this story literary?

    This story is so internal, and so focused on the characters. We’ve got this sort of self-gaslighting that Margot does throughout the piece (he’s a good guy, really, you’re just being paranoid. Did you really see a red flag, or are you just imagining things?), her need to placate his ego, and this really sharp observation in prose. The language isn’t stripped down to a point of minimalism or particularly lush, but it’s direct and gives information without unnecessary adornment. There’s also these telling details (holy smokes, this man has glow-in-the dark stars on his ceiling, which, isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, but given the rest of the information we’re given, feels both so in line with and simultaneously contrary to what we expect). It’s written with such an eerie familiarity that I think even people who haven’t been in this situation will feel that gut level discomfort and concern that Margot feels, even if she tries to write it off. What really sets this story apart though (and what seemed to cause some of the firestorm around it) is the way it addresses this ugly, shameful truth of our society in a new way. I think part of the reason it seemed to hit a nerve was because of the bald way the language laid out this truth: there was no flowery language to hide behind, no minimalism to give the reader the luxury of dialing down what was happening. It was there, it was direct, and it refused to look away from what was happening.

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  4. 8. Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

    The story is about a fictional experience that straight women can't help but understand because more than likely we've been in that position, either ourselves or through a friend who has. The third person point of view is a great way to make it so that we are watching it from someone else's perspective because for men this could be a hard concept to grasp. By using third person, the reader can watch what's going, whereas first person forces you into the story. We wish we could help her out of this situation, but we have to sit back and watch as Robert makes her uncomfortable from our third person perspective. I think it was a good POV to choose.

    -Taylor

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  5. 2) Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?

    The reason why I think this story has lasted is because of the fact this it hits hard about topics important to society as a whole. It can’t be said that it’s lasted a long while, as it came out in 2017, but there is something about it that feels important to share. This idea of a sexual encounters and consent are especially important. A source I looked into said that this was made in the middle of the me too movement, and I can understand why this might have been so controversial. The encounter being written in a close third also doesn’t help, since we can see our narrator’s emotions and how she handles them. I think this encapsulates the problems of an era, the gender roles and how engrained (for good or ill), and that is why people flocked to this.

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  6. 7. Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?

    This story is extremely character-driven. It is all about the interior or Margot's mind, and everything in the story is filtered through her thoughts. Her thoughts, and therefore the audience's perception, about Robert swing wildly. She notices red flags, but convinces herself to ignore them. At times he is a comforting bear, and others a murder with corpses in in spare rooms. Her inability to say no to and create an uncomfortable situation leads to a bad night. In line with her not wanting to make people feel bad, she leads Robert on instead of asking to be left alone, until the decision is taken out of her hands by her roommate. I can see how a lot of the controversy about this story is created by the character of Robert. So little is known about him, because details about his life are intentionally left vague, so Margot's perceptions can swing wildly. He can maybe come across as a guy being unfairly treated and fat shamed. But I don't think the movie is about whether Robert is a good or bad guy, but how he and Margot are a bad fit and her thought process about how she discovers this.

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  7. 11. Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

    A: I'm not sure if we're supposed to answer our question or write a paragraph response to the internet reaction, so I'll try to make this a little bit of both and hope that suffices. Kristen Roupenian's Wikipedia page was frustratingly sparse, mostly noting she's the author of "Cat Person" and that HBO bought the rights to her published story collection with plans to produce an anthology series. When I did the responsible college student thing and looked outside of Wikipedia, just about everything online with Roupenian attached somehow involved "Cat Person". It made me wonder if Roupenian ever gets frustrated to have her whole career at this point defined by one story, especially when she seems to be a relatively new voice. I mean, she got paid over a million dollars in advance for her book so at least she's making good money doing something she's obviously very skilled at and passionate about? I don't know, for fear of putting words in the author's mouth I won't theorize too much. I did think the internet response was interesting, especially the discussion around viewing the story as if it's an essay rather than a story. I don't know that relatability is as bad as some in the article would seem to believe. In fact, I think relatability is kind of the whole point of storytelling, or at the very least it's certainly one of the main points of literary fiction.

    -Alec

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  8. 13. How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

    This piece feels very modern compared to the other stories we’ve read (and it is, as it was written in 2017). Even though many of the stories we’ve read discussed social issues such as race in “Brownies” and consumerism and material wealth in “Black Friday, “The Gilded Six Bits,” and “The Enormous Radio” the way this story presents its commentary on gender politics, sex, and power feels like it could only have been produced for this generation. The use of technology to facilitate the plot— the dialogue that continues between Margot and Robert through text— as well as Margot’s internal monologue openly going back and forth on her feelings towards Robert— feeling like she knows him, feeling like she wants to be with him, and then being repulsed by him and feeling pressured to sleep with him— are so openly expressed that it feels like a modern conversation being presented.
    The way in which readers are made to feel about Margot and Robert throughout the story reminds me a lot of the characters Mel and Terri from “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” because the characters have their flaw that are acknowledged by readers along the way, Terri sympathizes for her abusive ex and Mel becomes increasingly belligerent as he drinks more, eventually revealing his hateful feelings he’s harbored for his first wife. But it isn’t until the end, his finger of bees, that we lose our respect for the cardiologist. A similar trajectory occurs in “Cat Person.” Margot and Robert both have faults that are obvious to readers: Margot is somewhat naive and convinces herself that she likes Robert by flattering herself, while Robert is controlling and makes off-hand comments about her youth and her college-life (and after finding out that he’s fourteen years older, it kind of makes sense). It isn’t until the end, however, much like Carver’s story, that we lose all sympathy for Robert as a character when he calls Margot a whore over text. In both stories there is a mounting sense of danger surrounding Mel and Robert, but each ending sort of condemns each character, leaving readers to forget or linger on the faults in the other characters.
    What stood out to me about this story was Margot’s interiority. It is unique how a lot of the dialogue we get from Margot is actually interiority but perceived as dialogue because she holds back on what she plans to say to Roobert. Margot is not attracted to Robert but can’t bring herself to express her true feelings, such as when she says, “We should probably just kill ourselves” or imagines telling him about her high school boyfriend.

    -Sam

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  9. 9. Setting: How does the setting work within the story? What are the key places, and in how does the writer describe them?

    The settings in this story were definitely key factors in the overall structure--in fact, they seem to be the backbone. The whole story is sort of circumstantial, and setting has a lot to do with the forming of the narrative arc. The first setting is the movie theatre that Margot works at, there isn't too much detail, but I think this is because that is a setting that is familiar to most readers. What is interesting to me is that there seems to be a double-edged sword approach to all of the settings. There is Margot's theatre (where students go), and there is the other theatre (theatre with Robert). There is the student ghetto bar, and there is the speakeasy mature bar. There is Margot's dorm room, and then there is Roberts house. Each situation with Robert is not pleasant, and the setting is unfamiliar--interesting narrative strategy. Effective. There seemed to be the most detail about Robert's house and its contents. Detailing things that she saw as to form him as a normal person and whatnot.

    - Elizabeth S.

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    1. The lithub article was an interesting read. It detailed how many women found this article relatable. There was a sort of negative relatability that I found in the comments about how the main character is "emotionally stunted," "immature," and a "crap human being,"--and how apparently there are a lot of women with these qualities and that's why this is relatable. I disagree. There is plenty in this story to relate to, and not all of it is self-defacing. I personally related to this story in a couple ways. There have been times where I meet/hang out with a friend, and we end up texting a lot, but rarely meet in person. When we do meet up, the aspect of unfamiliarity/silence is rather relatable. I think it does need to be taken into account that if the genders were switched, how would this story go over? I'm not sure if that was the purpose of this story though. Overall, this was an interesting article to read in accordance with the short story "Cat Person".

      - Elizabeth S.

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  10. 3. Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?

    Reading the story for myself and viewing the additional reactions from the article showcased, the fame (or infamy, however it's viewed) is warranted; it touches on modern culture and a realistic portrayal of this specific experience. It holds common themes and observations that an audience can easily digest but with understandable discomfort. However, I find that there is additionally the spark that has helped make it a "successful" story: the environment in which it found itself being discussed and argued on online mediums. There's a major difference in between the controlled environments of those who subscribe to these stories of the genre versus a broader audience that sees this without further context. This separation incites further discussion, but within public not specific to a literary audience. Seeing such a vehemently positive and negative reaction gains traction quickly, and having it shared in such an easy and widespread manner helps out the piece in making the rounds. The combination between the topical subject matter, the visceral detail, and the environment surrounding it's release creates a strong presence.

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