'Macavity: The Mystery Cat' by T.S. Eliot

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Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw--
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there's no on like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air--
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!

Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly doomed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square--
But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!

He's outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard's.
And when the larder's looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke's been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair--
Ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there!

And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty's gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair--
But it's useless of investigate--Macavity's not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
"It must have been Macavity!"--but he's a mile away.
You'll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macacity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibit, or one or two to spare:
And whatever time the deed took place--MACAVITY WASN'T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Macavity: The Mystery Cat

Oh, what a delight to dive into the world of T.S. Eliot's poetry and, in particular, to unravel the enigma that is Macavity: The Mystery Cat. Eliot's poem is a masterpiece that transcends the boundaries of children's literature, and its complexity and ambiguity make it a multifaceted work that requires careful analysis and interpretation. In this essay, I will explore the various themes, literary devices, and interpretations of this classic poem, and I hope to shed some light on the mystery that is Macavity.

The Plot

Let us start with the plot of the poem. At its most basic level, Macavity: The Mystery Cat is a tribute to the criminal underworld, and it portrays Macavity as a master criminal who is always one step ahead of the law. The poem begins with a description of the other cats who live in London and how they are not like Macavity, who is "not there". Eliot's use of negative space, or the absence of Macavity, is significant because it creates an aura of mystery and intrigue, and it highlights Macavity's elusiveness.

As the poem progresses, we see how Macavity's exploits get more and more daring, and how he always manages to escape capture. We are told that he is the "hidden paw" behind various crimes, such as the theft of the Crown Jewels and the kidnapping of Lord Brompton's son. But whenever the police arrive at the scene of the crime, Macavity is nowhere to be found. Instead, they find his "pawprints in the basement", which only adds to his mythic status. The poem ends with a warning to the reader to watch out for Macavity, who is "the Napoleon of crime".


One of the main themes of Macavity: The Mystery Cat is the tension between order and chaos. Macavity represents chaos and anarchy, while the police and the law represent order and stability. Eliot uses this tension to explore the limits of authority and the idea of a criminal mastermind who is beyond the reach of the law. In this sense, Macavity can be seen as a symbol of rebellion against the status quo, and his exploits can be interpreted as a form of resistance against the establishment.

Another theme that runs through the poem is the idea of identity and selfhood. Macavity is a chameleon who can change his appearance at will, and his ability to elude the police is partly due to his ability to obscure his identity. This theme is also reflected in the other cats who are described in the poem, each with their own distinct personality and appearance. The poem suggests that identity is mutable and that it is shaped by context and environment.

Finally, Macavity: The Mystery Cat can be seen as a commentary on the nature of fame and celebrity. Macavity is a notorious figure who is known to all the cats in London, and his exploits have earned him a reputation as a master criminal. But his fame is also his downfall, as it makes him a target for the police and limits his ability to move freely. The poem suggests that fame can be a double-edged sword, and that it can bring both rewards and dangers.

Literary Devices

Eliot's use of literary devices in Macavity: The Mystery Cat is masterful and adds to the richness and depth of the poem. One of the most striking devices is his use of negative space and ellipsis. By describing what Macavity is not, Eliot creates a sense of mystery and intrigue that draws the reader in. He also uses ellipsis to suggest the passage of time and the continuity of Macavity's exploits.

Another device that Eliot employs is allusion. Macavity: The Mystery Cat is full of references to other works of literature and popular culture. For example, Macavity's "long sinuous body" is reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Cat That Walked by Himself", while his reference to a "brainy Sphinx" evokes the image of the ancient Egyptian Sphinx. Eliot also alludes to Sherlock Holmes and other detective stories, which adds to the poem's sense of mystery and intrigue.

Eliot's use of rhyme and meter is also noteworthy. The poem has a regular meter and rhyme scheme, which gives it a sing-song quality that is reminiscent of nursery rhymes. However, Eliot also uses internal rhyme and slant rhyme to create a more complex and sophisticated sound pattern. For example, the line "Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity" has a subtle internal rhyme that adds to its musicality.


The beauty of Macavity: The Mystery Cat is that it can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on one's perspective. Some critics have seen the poem as a critique of the British class system, with Macavity representing the underclass that rebels against the upper class. Others have read the poem as a commentary on the nature of evil and the limits of morality. Still others have seen it as a satire of detective stories and the conventions of crime fiction.

One particularly interesting interpretation of Macavity: The Mystery Cat is that it is a poem about the creative process. According to this reading, Macavity represents the muse or the inspiration that drives the artist to create. Just as Macavity eludes the police, so too does inspiration elude the artist, who must capture it when it appears. The poem suggests that creativity is unpredictable and cannot be controlled, and that it is the source of both joy and frustration for the artist.


Macavity: The Mystery Cat is a remarkable poem that demonstrates T.S. Eliot's mastery of language and his ability to convey complex themes and ideas in a deceptively simple form. The poem's ambiguity and complexity make it a work that can be interpreted in many different ways, and its themes of order and chaos, identity and selfhood, and fame and celebrity continue to resonate with readers today. Above all, Macavity: The Mystery Cat is a testament to the power of poetry to inspire, to challenge, and to delight.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Macavity: The Mystery Cat - A Masterpiece of T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot, the renowned poet, playwright, and literary critic, is known for his contribution to modernist poetry. His works are characterized by their complexity, allusiveness, and ambiguity. One of his most famous poems, "Macavity: The Mystery Cat," is a perfect example of his unique style. This poem, published in 1939, is a witty and entertaining piece of literature that has captured the imagination of readers for generations.

The poem is about a cat named Macavity, who is a master criminal and a notorious figure in the feline world. He is described as a ginger cat with a white face, and he has a reputation for being able to commit crimes without ever being caught. The poem is written in the third person, and the narrator describes Macavity's various exploits and his elusive nature.

The poem begins with the narrator introducing Macavity as the "Napoleon of Crime." This is a reference to the infamous criminal mastermind, Napoleon Bonaparte. The use of this comparison immediately sets the tone for the poem and establishes Macavity as a formidable figure. The narrator goes on to describe Macavity's physical appearance, highlighting his distinctive features, such as his white face and ginger fur.

The poem then moves on to describe Macavity's various crimes. He is said to have committed a range of offenses, from stealing milk to breaking into banks. The narrator describes how Macavity is able to commit these crimes without ever being caught, using his intelligence and cunning to evade the authorities. The poem also suggests that Macavity has a network of accomplices who help him carry out his crimes.

One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is the way in which it portrays Macavity as a kind of anti-hero. Although he is a criminal, he is also depicted as a charismatic and charming figure. The narrator describes how other cats are drawn to him, and how he is able to manipulate them to do his bidding. This creates a sense of ambiguity in the poem, as the reader is left unsure whether to root for Macavity or condemn him.

The poem also contains a number of literary allusions and references. For example, the line "He's called the Hidden Paw" is a reference to the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band." This allusion adds an extra layer of depth to the poem, as it connects Macavity to the world of detective fiction and crime-solving.

Another interesting aspect of the poem is the way in which it uses language. Eliot's writing is known for its complexity and allusiveness, and "Macavity: The Mystery Cat" is no exception. The poem contains a range of literary devices, such as metaphor, simile, and personification. For example, Macavity is described as having "eyes like a cat" and a "forehead like a hammer." These descriptions create vivid images in the reader's mind and add to the overall atmosphere of the poem.

The poem also contains a number of humorous moments. For example, the line "He's outwardly respectable" is followed by the parenthetical remark "(They say he cheats at cards)." This adds a touch of irony to the poem and shows Eliot's skill at using humor to undercut serious themes.

Overall, "Macavity: The Mystery Cat" is a masterful piece of poetry that showcases T.S. Eliot's unique style and literary skill. The poem is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and it has stood the test of time as a classic of modernist literature. Whether you are a fan of cats, crime fiction, or poetry in general, "Macavity: The Mystery Cat" is a must-read for anyone who loves great literature.

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