Friday, July 6, 2007

Personification of Wild Cats (Annotation G2-2/Goddard)

Through shifting alliances, plot turns and the perfect murder James M. Cain creates a suspenseful story in his novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. The strongest alliance between Cora Papadakis and Frank Chambers is compelling enough, as they form their bond, which wavers plenty throughout the story. Frank is a wanderer, and Cora is desire. Their relationship and their characters are elegantly summed up in Cain’s descriptions of wildcats.
As Frank Chambers and Cora Papadakis develop passion for each other, Frank makes the first mention of wildcats. “She was snarling like a cougar. I liked her like that” (Cain 13). Subtly, the comparison between Frank and Cora to wildcats comes much later in the novel.
Later, Cora leaves for a funeral and Frank is left at home, alone. He meets a second woman who he goes to Mexico with, and this woman keeps large cats. She explains to Frank how she goes to Nicaragua to catch wildcats. Being in the wildcat business, she is able to make a distinction between Jungle Cat and Outlaw Cats. “Jungle pumas. Not these outlaws you see in zoos. If it were people he would be a crazy person. These cats you see, they look like cats, but they’re really cat lunatics” (Cain 95). The implication here is about the behavior of zoo cats, caged animals will behave as such. The term outlaw in human terms has a different connotation altogether. Not coincidently, these outlaw cats, born in cages, represent Frank and Cora.
Once Frank returns home from his sojourn in Mexico with the cat trainer, he resumes his life with Cora. As time goes by, the wildcat woman returns and pays a visit to Frank by way of Cora. “It was gray, with spots on it. She put it on the table in front of me and it began to meow. The puma had little ones while you were gone, and she brought you one to remember her by” (Cain 105) Of course Frank had not told Cora he went away with a strange woman, and tried to deny it afterward. Their relationship becomes the kitten, once they no longer trust one another; they focus on the animal like a child. “Most of the time it meowed or slept” (Cain 107). The development of the animal is directly incidental to having both Cora and Frank. Once Cora is killed and Frank goes to trial for her death, he meets the animal once again. Mr. Katz, the lawyer trying Frank populates the courtroom with witnesses. “He even had the puma in court. It had grown, but it hadn’t been taken care of right, so it was mangy and sick looking, and yowled, and tried to bite him” (Cain 114).
Assuming a cage puma is an outlaw, the story concludes with Frank in jail. Subtle, but the use of wild cats, and big cats as a personification brilliantly develops James M. Cain’s characters.


Cain, James M. The Postman Always Rings Twice. New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 1992.

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