Thomas Stearns Elliot born on September 26, 1888, was an essayist, a critic, a playwright, and one of the well-known poets of the twentieth century. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. In the poem Macavity: The Mystery Cat,Thomas Stearns Elliot sketches a mystery cat’s evil characteristics. He uses this humorous poem using the cat to refer to a human criminal who is wicked and fast. The swift movement of a cat and its mysterious eyes might influence Thomas to use this evil character to represent a human criminal. He addressed the cat as a mystery because no crime agency can arrest this mastermind as he does not leave any clue behind. He is an unsolved puzzle for detective agencies. Poet also addressed Macavity as “hidden paws” and “Napoleon of Crime”. Now let us analyze the poem.
The first stanza starts with the name of the mystery cat, Macavity. This cat is known by the name “hidden paw” because he is a mastermind in crime who never gets caught. He is a criminal who disregards the law. Even thedetective specialized agencies of the world like the Scotland yard and flying Squad are hopeless and helpless that they could not catch this wicked cat. So, he is considered as “bafflement of the Scotland Yard”. When they reach, Macavity is too smart to be ever caught and he would not be there at the crime spot.
In the second stanza, the poet again reminds his reader about distinguish characteristics of Macavity. This cat disobeys human law and the law of gravity. His levitation is so magical that would amaze any fakir. Thus, the poet says that his talent for levitation would break the law of gravity. When you reach the crime spot, Macavity is not there. One can search him in the basement or can look up in the air. But as the poet reminds Macavity is not there.
In the third stanza, the poet describes the physical characteristics of Macavity. The poet calls him a “ginger cat” as Macavity is tall and thin. He can be recognized by his eyes which are deeply sunken in. He has lines on his forehead and has a domed head. Thus, the poet says that Macavity is always full of his criminal thoughts. His eyes are so sharp and alert on the crime spot. His body is dusty, and his whiskers are not combed as he does not care about his cleanliness. That means he is only busy thinking and living the crime. In the next line, the poet compares the cat with the vigilance of a snake. As snakes are so attentive to the surrounding, in the same way Macavity swings his head side to side to smell any danger. One can mistake him to be asleep, but he is wide awake.
In the fourth stanza, again the poet calls the cat name three times as the poet tries to accentuate the uniqueness of the cat. Macavity is a devil in form of a cat. He is a monster of wickedness. One may find him in “by-street” or “square” but he vanishes after committing a crime.
In the fifth stanza, the poets give an example of some of Macavity’s unseized crimes. The cat plays the cheating card so clean that he might be respected. Though he has committed so many crimes, his name is not in the police file. He has executed crimes like looting food and jewel. He is the one who is involved in missing milk and Peke’s, the dog choking. He is also behind the breaking up of greenhouse glass and other architecture. But when the crime is discovered, Macavity is not there.
In the sixth stanza, the poet enlightens on the cat breaking all laws. When the Foreign officer finds that the treaty is broken or the police lose some plans and drawings, they may find the paper pieces later in the hall or on the stairs. But ahh…what’s the point to investigate this. Of course, Macavity is not there. Because when the loss or crime is disclosed, the secret service would know that it is the Macavity bind all this. But how does it matter as he escapes miles away. One can find him resting and licking his thumb. Or he is busy doing some complicated sums, which might be planning to execute the next crime.
In the last stanza, T.S Eliot says that no other cat is like Macavity as he is very smart and cunning. The further poet tells that he is not alone in his crime. He always has some companies, maybe one or two with him for his crime job. However, whenever the crime takes place, he always runs away. In the next line, the poet mentions Macavity’s companion name. Its “Mungojerrie” and “Griddlebone”. These wicked cats are also well known for their crimes. In the next two lines, the poet calls the Macavity as “Napoleon of Crime” because he is the mastermind behind all the crimes and leads the operation. All other cats are just agents under the leadership of Macavity.
In the poem, Macavity: The Mystery Cat, the poet uses many literary techniques to present this poem to his readers. Instead of using a human, he uses a cat to explains the attributes of a human criminal. He uses poetic devices like simile, personification, and repetition. Comparing the head movement of the cat with the snake is an example of a simile. “They say he cheats at cards” is an example of personification and anthropomorphism which means he adds attributes of human quality and intention to a cat. He uses repetition like “Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity” and “Macavity’s not there” to emphasize the fact that Macavity is the only one criminal mastermind and he is too clever to be caught. He uses the rhythm of the AABB lyrical scheme. The poem might be unrealistic. But the poetic devices and the rhythm of the poem make it humorous and attract the reader especially the younger ones.