The short story “Circus cat, alley cat” is written by Anita Desai and is on three pages. The short story is about Anna, a circus performer who becomes a nanny for an English family. Anna is performing with tigers and lions in an exciting show. The narrator is a child and has a wild imagination. When Anna is babysitting the children, the narrator often imagines that Anna cracks her whip, and controls the cats. One day Anna’s baby is taken away from her, and she leaves to get it back. In the end, the narrator is in the circus seeing her perform.
During my analysis, I will focus on a description of the setting, a characterization of the narrator and Anna, a discussion of the narrative technique and a comment on the ending. The story takes place in India in a high-class neighborhood, page one line one: “I first saw Anna, the new nanny of the English children next door, who lived in a pink stucco house,.. ”. A stucco house is a quit large house so therefore you can assume that it is a high-class neighborhood. The English people next door have a nanny which is also indicates that it is a high-class neighborhood.
You can see that it takes place in India because of the bamboo trees growing the garden and that Anna is from Malabar (a coast area in India). The look of the narrator is not described in the story, but the narrator is a child; the text does not describe whether it is a boy or girl, who lives with family in this high-class neighborhood. You can see the narrator is a child on page line 11: “Anna has only to come into the room with a tricycle or skipping-ropes, and we would feel the trainer had arrived, wooden chair in hand to practice the act, and in this spirit we would play the games she ordered play” .
The narrator has a very lively imagination, and often imagines that Anna is a harsh lion tamer. During the story the narrator is horrified with Anna, page one line 14: “Sick with terror, I found I could scarcely breathe and preferred to creep over the manure pit to my own home than on to the lawn and face o face with nanny”, Page 2 line 28: “We lived in a constant quiver of thrill upon thrill”. Then in the end, the narrator still sees her as “Anna the circus cat” which indicates that the narrator still is frightened of her.
Anna, her real name or stage name Shakti, is a young quit big woman and, as mentioned earlier, a former cats trainer in a circus. Her look is described on page 1 line 6: “She was large and heavily built, with very black bright eyes and a lot of winey black hair”. She has been married but left her husband, because he thought she was to stay at home and then he took over her show. The English Mrs. Bates found her on the street near starvation, and then hired her as a nanny. She ends up in the circus again after the search for the baby.
The children sees a as a “Anna of the circus” because of her past, but in fact she is a nice tame alley cat page 2 line 21: “No matter how hard Mrs. Bates tried to domesticate her and turn her into a tame alley cat, a nice, motherly pussy cat, Anna remained to us the “breath-taking, death defying, terror striking” Anna of the circus”. The narrative technique is often seen when the narrator describes his/hers imaginations. When the narrator describes them the words are changing and giving the children animal character, page 2 lie 9: “We would no longer walk, or run, we would prowl.
We would not hop or skip, but spring and leap”. All these changes in their behavior shows that they change when they are around Anna. They become her animals, and she is the horrifying tamer. Also the fact that the story is written in a non-chronologically way allows the writer, Anita Desai, to describe Anna’s life very detailed. If we have gotten the whole story about Anna chronically, the story would not have had the same excitement, and would not have allowed us to see why the narrator sees Anna, the way the narrator does.
In the end, the narrator watches Anna perform in the circus and during her perform the narrator can’t stop thinking of where Anna’s husband is, page 3 line 30: “.. , the thought uppermost in my mind was: where is Anna’s husband? ”. Then the narrator describes Anna as a roaring caged tiger eating bloody flesh, throwing back her mane and scarring away people who get near her. I believe this means the narrator thinks that Anna, is being caged by her husband like he used to do when they were married. Perhaps this is the way the narrator look upon Indian women in marriage: caged animals who lives in sorrow, pain and frustration.