A Closer Look at “Kitty”- Meghan Miller

After class on Thursday I was really interested in one of the last discussions we had about Kitty’s name in relation to the “kitty” mixture that acts like a casing for explosive materials. I decided to take a closer look at what “kitty” is. Since I was not quite sure what I was searching for, my first Google search was “kitty for explosives.” I soon discovered that this was a poor and unfortunate word combination choice. Rather than finding information about the function of “kitty” and the mixture of beeswax, resin, and tallow, I found two games called “Exploding Kittens” and “Kitten Kannon” (which I did not further investigate for obvious reasons). Then, I tried to be more specific by searching “kitty mixture for explosives,” which rendered similar results. However, with the “kitty mixture for explosives” search, I did learn that you can make a bomb with kitty litter (also something I did not further investigate). I quickly changed my search to “kitty mixture of beeswax, resin, and tallow,” which finally led me to something more useful.

Although I did not find the term “kitty” used in relation to anything with explosives or WWI, I did find a similar mixture of materials used for “pitch” in chasing and repousse. The “pitch” is made from beeswax, tallow, and several different kinds of resins (though there were many different recipes that were mentioned in For those of you (like me) who do not know what repousse is, good ol’ Wikipedia says it is ” a metalworking technique in which a malleable metal is ornamented or shaped by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief” (here’s the link for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repouss%C3%A9_and_chasing). From my understanding there is a mixture similar to the “kitty” mixture that has different resins, beeswax, and tallow that is used to help form the molds for the metals being shaped. Here are a couple examples of repousse:

(This is what the process looks like. The metal is places in the gooey “kitty-like” substance and then hammered on the backside to mold a design on the front side.)

The reason I am bringing up repousse and the similar “kitty-like” mixture is because I think it can another interesting reading of Kitty’s character. On Thursday we threw around the idea that Kitty is holding together the household and acting a “kitty-like” substance keeping everything from falling apart (or “exploding”). If we read Kitty as the substance that is used for repousse, we can see that she molds into whatever role she has to play at the specific time. The “kitty-like”  material in repousse provides a soft, malleable substance for the metal to be hammered on and formed into a pretty design. The “pitch” has to be hard enough to support the piece of metal that is being hammered, but also soft enough to be malleable for the metal to be hammered. If my understanding about the “pitch”–or “kitty-like”–substance in the repousse process is correct, Kitty could be considered the “pitch” of the household. Although Chris is the provider for Kitty and Jenny, Kitty is the person who makes (or molds) the household into something that appears to be pretty and neat. On the surface their household appears to be idealistic and peaceful because Kitty maintains her composure. However, beneath the surface, things are not as smooth and shiny. Kitty makes the household to appear perfect to observers because she absorbs the pain and negativity much like the “kitty-like” substance in the hammering process of repousse. Some of the ways in which Kitty absorbs problems is that she keeps her composure when Chris leaves for war (even though she is worried about him she has to act like she is not), she does not let others know that she is still mourning the loss of her son, and she tries to keep her composure when Chris’s illness causes him to be in love with Margaret again. All of these issues “hammer” into Kitty’s character and force her to be malleable and adjust so that her image and the image of the household is upheld.

Here are a couple sites that I found about repousse and the “kitty-like” substance:



Also, just for fun, and because I thought it was cool, here is a video for anyone interested in what the repousse process looks like:





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