I am a Cat - Summary | Major English Grade XI

Natsume Soseki

I am a Cat - Summary | Major English Grade XI

I am a Cat

This story shows the influence of the West on Japanese life and culture. It introduces a school teacher and his family as they appear through the eyes of a cat who has taken up residence in their home.

The storyteller, a cat, has no name. He doesn’t know where he was born. The first human being he found was a student. The student lifted him and put him on his palm. His face was unlike that of cats. It had no hair and smoke was coming out of the nostrils. When the student threw him into a bamboo bush, the narrator felt dizzy and fainted.

There was a large pond nearby. The narrator did not know what to do. He meowed many times, but nobody came to help him. He felt hungry and left the place looking for food. He found a broken bamboo bush and crawled through a hole. He went into a room. It was his first time at somebody’s home.

Maid Osan of the house was worse human than the student. She grabbed him by the neck and threw him outdoors. She did this many times as he kept coming back to the room. Because of his dislike for Osan, the narrator stole the fish the other day and felt proud of himself. As Osan was about to throw him out for the last time, the master of the house stopped her. So, the narrator was able to establish himself there.

The master of the house was a school teacher. He would all the time remain in his room. His family thought he was a hardworking man. But when the narrator secretly entered his master’s room, he would find his master dozing off and driveling. The master often said that teaching was a very hard job. But the narrator thought it was the easiest job. If he were to be reborn a man, he would become a teacher.

The narrator often tries to stay close to his master. When his master reads the newspapers, he always sits on his lap. When the master takes his nap, he climbs up his back. The narrator sleeps on the container for boiled rice in the mornings and a charcoal-burning foot warmer in the evenings. On fine days, he sleeps on the veranda. When he crawls into the bed of two small daughters of his master, the smaller girl screams at night and his master beats him with a ruler. The narrator thinks that human beings, especially children, are terribly spoilt. They are inconsiderate. They do not care about the sufferings of cats. They illegally take away others’ possessions.  They cruelly kill small kittens. But the narrator is optimistic. He doesn’t think that the human race will prosper forever. So, he is waiting for the time when cats will reign.

The narrator’s master writes poems for newspapers and magazines. He is also fond of archery and playing the violin, but he can’t do either well. He has a habit of singing in the toilet.

One day, the master brought home the materials for painting. Then, he continued drawing pictures in his room. After some days’ hard work he realized that he wasn’t a good painter. The next day, he brought one of his friends home. His friend gave him an example of Italian painter Andrea del Sarto and suggested to follow his way of painting natural things. The next day, the master came to the veranda where the narrator was taking his nap. The master had started drawing the narrator’s picture.

The master painted the narrator very badly. Nothing in the picture resembled him. The narrator was unable to move his body parts fearing it would damage his master’s picture. But he felt a sudden urge to go outside to relieve him. When he moved, his master angrily called him a fool. The narrator feels the need for some power to control human excesses.  

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