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Literature / The Cat Who Went to Heaven

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The Cat Who Went to Heaven is a novel written in 1930 by Elizabeth Coatsworth, based on Buddhist folk tales.

One day a small calico cat is adopted into the house of a painter. The painter is asked to paint a mural depicting all of Buddha's animals. According to classical Buddhist legend, the cat rejected Buddha and wasn't to be included in Buddha's animals. The painter has learned to love his cat, so includes a small calico cat in the painting. He can't imagine that a cat wouldn't be accepted into heaven. The little cat dies of happiness at the same time. A day later, by some mysterious force, the painting of Buddha now has him personally blessing the cat.

Highly symbolic in nature, this book is also liked for portaying Buddhism and Buddhist culture in an accessible and unbiased way.


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Tropes used by the book:

  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Good Fortune. She is personally blessed by Buddha at the end, with the painting showcasing it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Good Fortune dies, but at least she dies of happiness (when it first looked like it was going to be of despair) and a literal miracle made by Buddha ensures that the painter will not lose his work and also shows that she will have a good afterlife.
  • Cats Are Mean: Or at least haughty. It is because they refused the teachings of Buddha that Good Fortune suffers her third-act despair. She, on the other hand, is a subversion in that she is very nice but she keeps apparently asking the painter to add a cat because... well, why not? (this of course leads to her being blessed by Buddha himself after she dies).
  • Cute Kitten: Good Fortune is shown to being joy to the painter's household.
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  • Death by Despair: Inverted: Good Fortune dies of joy when the painter includes her in his painting. Although before that it looked like it was going to be played straight when the painter explained to her that cats denied Buddha and she wouldn't eat from the agony.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: This book won the 1931 Newbery Award, and guess what happens to the cat...
  • Foregone Conclusion: The title.
  • Kindly Housekeeper: The painter's housekeeper always morally supports him, and was the one who brought Good Fortune home.
  • Meaningful Name: Good Fortune.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The painter knows that, according to legend, cats refused the teachings of Buddha, and in doing so he is going to ruin his work and will probably prevent him from ever getting work again, but he decides to add a cat to the painting anyway so Good Fortune will be happy again.
  • Starving Artist: The painter hopes his commissioned painting of the Buddha and the animals for the emperor will make his name known and result in more potential work.

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