The Black Cat
White Story About The Black Cat
As described by many critics and literary writers, Edgar Allan Poe is, without a doubt, one of the most influential writers, critics, poets and editors in America history and well-known in the world of literature. With his ‘Gothic’ style in writings, as many of his works, ‘The Black Cat’ is considered as one of the best of his works. Poe’s Biography Edgar Allan Poe, who is famous for his great work in literature, was born in Boston on 19th of January 1809. Poe’s father left the family in 1810 and his mother died the following year. After he lost both of his parents at a very young age, he and his sister were raised by John Allan in Virginia. When he was 6, he went to school in England for five years and learned Latin and French as well as math and history there. In 1826 he went to the University of Virginia but because of his bad addictions like alcohol and gambling he became in debt and had to quit school.
In 1827, he moved to Boston and enlisted to Army. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, was published that year. In 1829, he published a second collection entitled AI Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. After 2 years in army, Poe moved to Maryland to live with his Aunt and her daughter, Virginia. Poe began to sell short stories and, in 1835, he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. One year later he married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia. Over the next ten years, Poe edit several literary journals and during these years he established himself as a poet, a short story writer and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems, including ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ and ‘The Raven.’ In 1847, Poe’s wife passed away from tuberculosis and after Virginia’s death, Poe’s chronic alcohol abuse and depression worsened. On October 3, 1849, he was found in a state of semi-consciousness, he died four days later of ‘acute congestion of the brain.’ Evidence by medical practitioners who reopened the case has shown that Poe may have been suffering from rabies. After his death a contemporary of him said, ‘This death was almost a suicide, a suicide prepared for a long time.’
Exposition At the beginning of the story we learn that the narrator is going to die tomorrow, and he wants to tell us his story which is going to be ugly. Conflict The narrator ‘loves’ animals and so does his wife. They have many animals, and one of them is our narrator’s favorite a cat named Pluto. He begins to drink and starts to abuse everyone, even animals, except Pluto. Rising action Day by day, the narrator thinks that his lovely Pluto started to avoid him, so one day when he is drunk he decides to kill Pluto, cuts its eye out, hangs it from a tree. Now he’s a cat murderer, and his happy home seems to be more nightmarish. Climax After he murdered the cat in the morning, fire breaks out while the narrator’s sleeping and somehow, he, his wife and their servant manage to escape but now they’re in poverty. Falling action A new black cat appears in the story very looks like Pluto but this one has white spot on its chest. We don’t know whether this cat is the evil version Pluto or not. In this stage he is getting worse and worse. Also, we learn that he’s writing from a felon’s cell. Denouement One day, the new cat follows the narrator on the stairs and he raised an axe to kill it, but he is stopped by his wife and in rage he ended up killing his wife with an axe, after then, he hides his wife within the cellar walls.
The cat seems to have fled, and the narrator sleeps peacefully for the first time in a long time. After a while, the police finally come to search the house. The narrator thinks that they have no chance to find the narrator’s wife. Resolution As the police are about to leave the house for good, the narrator takes his cane and raps on the cellar wall to boast about the construction of the house. At that moment, a cat’s meow is heard by police and when they open the wall they find the narrator’s wife, along with the black cat with white spot on its chest. Therefore, the narrator ended up in jail. Narration First Person Unreliable. The unreliability of the narrator is made known from the first lines when he tries to explain to the readers that he is not mad. He states, “Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not and very surely do I not dream.’ Even though he tries to claim his sanity, later then, he accepts that alcohol made his judgment unclear and he started to act violently and abusive. The narrator also describes the events in detail, but what he describes might not be true. For example, at the end of the novel, the narrator thinks that the second black cat is a monster and describes the meow as, “A wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell.” This shows that the narrator might not be hundred percent sure what happened because, probably it was just a ‘meow’. Setting The exact time in the story ‘The Black Cat’ by Edgar Allan Poe is unknown but we can assume that it’s around 1840s. Where does the story start is also unknown at first but as the story develop, he introduces himself to readers as a man who experienced terrifying things and at the end we understand that he is now in a cell waiting for his execution.
The incidents he had are set at his home and in a tavern and he is putting down these event on paper in his prison cell. Characters Narrator: Prisoner scheduled for execution. His loathing of a cat he once loved leads to his commission of a capital crime. Narrator’s Wife: Woman of agreeable disposition who likes animals and obtains many pets for her husband. First Black Cat: Cat named Pluto that loves the narrator but irritates him when it follows him everywhere. Second Black Cat: Cat that resembles the first black cat and may be a reincarnation of the latter or, so the narrator may think. Policemen: Officers who investigate the happenings at the home of the narrator. Servant: Person working in the narrator’s household. Tone “The Black Cat” have multiple tones that change time to time. Sometimes, it’s ironic and irreverent and sometimes dark and mocking.
Ironic and Irreverent In the exposition, the narrator states that he proposes to retell ‘mere household events’ that seem to him ‘little but horror’ while to others they will ‘seem less terrible than baroque.” The narrator states that he grew more irritable with his wife and ‘at length I even offered her personal violence.’ When he attempts killing the second cat, the narrator’s wife intervenes, and he ironically narrates, ‘Goaded by this interference into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain.’ In the next paragraph, the narrator’s tone is irreverently calm as he describes how he set about with ‘deliberation’ to conceal his dastardly deed. Dark and Mocking After, he murders his wife, the narrator reflects ‘The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little.’ He adds, ‘I looked upon my future felicity as finally secure.” When the police arrive unexpectedly, the narrator asserts that he is ‘Secure in the inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever.’ As the police depart, he tells them, ‘Gentlemen, I am delighted to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health and a little more courtesy.
Taunting them, he says, ‘By the way, gentlemen, this is a very well-constructed house…” Symbols The first black cat(Pluto): The name comes from, Roman mythology, the Ruler of the Underworld and Dead. The cat with white spot: Even though the narrator doesn’t reveal it directly, but he is likely to dislike this cat because of his resemblance to Pluto. Also, he hated this cat because it reminded him what he had done to Pluto. He believes that the white spot on the cat is changing in appearance to look like the gallows supports the narrator’s growing guilt over his sin. Foreshadowing The narrator’s scheduled execution on the gallows is foreshadowed first by the narrator’s hanging of Pluto, next by the outline of the dead cat on the wall, and finally by the outline of the gallows on the white spot of the second black cat. Also, “I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others.” foreshadows that this might have a negative impact on others later in the story. Imagery Poe uses words and phrases to create mental images for the reader. This helps readers to experience his writings more realistically and visualize easily.
Anaphora To give emphasis and balance, Poe often uses anaphora in his stories. Here are boldfaced examples from ‘The Black Cat’: “I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others.” “These events have terrified – have tortured – have destroyed me. “I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.” Metaphors “For what disease is like Alcohol!” Alcohol is a reappearing theme in Poe’s stories and he exemplifies the ill effects of alcohol, probably it’s because he experienced them personally. “I … drowned in wine all memory of the deed” which also clearly shows the narrator’s partiality to Alcohol. “The socket of the lost eye presented, it is true, a frightful appearance…” Eyes are old symbols for the soul, by cutting out one of the cat’s eyes, the narrator separates his own soul in two, and destroys half of it. This metaphor reinforces the narrator’s duality, and it gives us an image of the ruin of his good half. “The corpse … stood erect before the eyes of the spectator” is used to emphasize the tragedy of the denouement of the cruel murder. Simile “All black cats as witches in disguise” is used to intensify the mysterious effect of the whole story. “Disease is like Alcohol” is for the purpose to characterize the reason of the narrator’s cruel deeds also it underlines that alcohol enslaves human mind and absorbs his soul. “The collapse of the protagonist’s soul” is revealed through the following simile “the spirit of PERVERSENESS as if my final and irrevocable overthrow.” Personification “Sagacious dog” personifies the dog because “sagacious” attributes the quality of a human. Cats also have qualities of a human “evil, sick, twisted”
Analysis of Lexical Categories
In this story Poe uses adjectives, verbs, nouns a lot and sometimes he uses capitalized or italic words to describe the narrator’s mental state and behavior. He often uses several adjectives to modify just one noun. The adjectives he used mostly related with psychological or emotional qualities. To show the readers, how complicated and corrupted is the narrator’s mind Poe uses adjectives. For example, “I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others.” These three adjectives put side by side to describe his change. Secondly, the usage of verbs in the story have great stylistic importance. In the first paragraph, “In their consequences, these events have terrified – have tortured – have destroyed me.” These verbs are ordered to describe the event’s horrible effects for the narrator and show his sufferings. When the narrator did his first “atrocious” act, Poe describes it in the following example, “I took from my waistcoat-pocket a penknife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.” In the first sentence, “took,” “opened,” “grasped,” and “cut” are used to emphasize the quickness of his act. In the second sentence, three verbs mark up the parallel effect to show the intensity of the narrator’s feelings. And lastly “Uplifting an axe, and forgetting, in my wraith, the childish dread, which had hitherto stayed personification in my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal.” In this sentence, “uplift” and “aim” are dynamic while “forget” and “stay” are stative. In this case Poe uses both dynamic and static verbs to show that the narrator was out of the control of reason.
Lastly, Poe uses different nouns to refer to cats according to the narrator’s mental state. The narrator called Pluto (first black cat) “him,” “he,” “favorite pet and playmate.” When he cut one of its eye he called the cat “poor beast.” Poe changed time to time how the narrator referred to Pluto to show the love of the narrator towards to Pluto was changing. When the narrator met the second cat he, first, called it “some black object” and “it” later then, “a great favorite” but started to dislike the cat he called it “the creature”, “the monster”, “the beast”. And in this story Poe mostly uses abstract nouns like “soul”, “guilt”, “damnation”, “demon”. Analysis of Grammatical Categories For the sentence complexity, I can certainly say that Poe uses complex sentences in his stories as well as in “The Black Cat”. “Uplifting an axe and forgetting, in my wraith, the childish dread which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed, a blow at the animal which, of course, would have proved instantly fatal had it descended as I wished” is a highly complex sentence as far as the amount of clauses that it contains, because of that the amount of ideas that it expresses. For the clauses: “Uplifting an axe” is an example of non-finite clause. “forgetting childish dread” is a subordinate clause which followed by another clause that modifies it “which had hitherto stayed my hand”. Poe uses subordinate clauses to demonstrate more details. There are also prepositional phrases that are used to indicate the conflicting feelings in the narrator’s mind. For example, “with the tears streaming from my eyes” and “with the bitterest remorse at my heart”. In conclusion, Poe uses many techniques in The Black Cat to show the complex mind of the narrator and let the readers visualize and experience the atmosphere of terror and gothic.
A Character Of The Narrator in The Black Cat
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” is told from the protagonist’s point of view, and it provides an account detailing how he transitioned from a loving and kind man to a one filled with rage, which ultimately drives him to murder his wife. In order to understand the protagonist’s motives behind his onset of rage and eventual committing of murder, one must look more carefully into the depths of the character’s hypothetical mind. Studying Poe’s protagonist from a psychoanalytical standpoint allows the reader to glimpse another layer within the story, looking into motives and explanations rather than simply stated actions in order to determine the author’s underlying meaning.
In the beginning of “The Black Cat,” the protagonist has all of the characteristics of a perfectly pleasant and all-around happy person. He claims to have been a so-called relatively good person since birth, stating that “from my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition” (Poe paragraph 2). He is a self-proclaimed, generally amiable person who happens to hold a great affection for animals and remains this way well into his adulthood. In the early stages of this story, there is no evidence to point to the fact that the protagonist would become a person filled with an intense rage. His personality traits are mild and do not hold a predisposition to anger. He seemingly possesses no motive whatsoever to turn to any type of violence; it follows logically, then, by way of analyzing the character’s psyche, that something must have provoked him to the point of a character change. Upon further research into the matter, it becomes evident that the character is likely suffering from a substance abuse issue.
The protagonist admits to becoming intemperate and angry and even shows shame concerning his disposition when recounting the story that sent him to prison. He admits that his countenance became so awful that he treated his beloved pets and his wife with physical and verbal abuse. Shortly after this admission, the protagonist finally hints at what disease might be ailing him to cause this drastic change in behavior. He refers to the budding addiction by saying that “[his] disease grew upon [him] — for what disease is like Alcohol…” (Poe para 6). Because of this statement and several other mentions of being inebriated, the reader is able to gain the knowledge that the protagonist has a problem with alcoholism or possibly addiction in general. Many studies have been conducted concerning the relationship between alcohol abuse and violence, and more often than not a correlation is present. In a case-crossover study, Ulrika Haggard-Grann, Johan Hallqvist, Niklas Langstrom, and Jette Moller explain the cause for alcohol related violence: the most commonly accepted [mechanism behind alcohol-induced aggression] involves the inhibition of fear (by dampening the stress response)…alcohol and other anxiolytic drugs such as benzodiazepines probably disrupt the individual’s threat detection, causing decreased avoidance and impaired assessment of risk…. (100-101)
Approaching the matter from the viewpoint that the protagonist is an alcoholic, his acts of violence such as abuse, gouging the cat’s eye out, and ultimately killing the cat are more readily explainable. He lacks the ability to see the consequences of his actions, and he lets his emotions swing wildly out of control due to the alcohol that is impairing his brain and, consequently, his judgment.
However, alcohol was not the only factor affecting the protagonist’s brain. Another psychological explanation accounts for the final push that it took for the protagonist to lose himself so entirely that he murders his wife on impulse. Based on evidence in the text, it can be inferred that the protagonist suffers from paranoia after his first bout of violence. Dr. Michael Karson described paranoia as a “way of managing disappointment and frustration” (paragraph 4). Since the story is told in first person from the protagonist’s point of view, it is made obvious that he is frustrated with himself for behaving in a manner that is so unlike what he defined himself as for so long. Paranoia is also often triggered by traumatic events, and the act of killing his beloved cat falls under both traumatic and disappointing. He lost something very important to him because of his own actions and he is disappointed in himself for acting so rashly. Paranoia ate away at his psyche until he was driven to a point where his coping skills were far from positive, leading him to commit murder instead of coping with his anger in a positive manner.
Further evidence for his paranoia can be found later in the story after he hangs his first black cat. A new cat comes into his life, and he begins to have irrational thoughts that the cat is out to get him and is actually a witch. It seems to the reader that the protagonist believes that the new cat has been possessed by the spirit of the old cat and is trying to take revenge on the man. When the protagonist’s house burns down, he perceives a scorch mark above his bed to be shaped like a giant cat, when in reality it most likely was not shaped in any specific manner at all. He believes that the world is constantly pointing to his failure and everything is out to get him, and this is a classic sign of paranoia. Dr. Karson presents a comparison between a healthy mind and a mind that is plagued with paranoia:
Paranoid people differ from you in what they consider an injustice, who they think is to blame, and what steps they think are needed to rectify the situation—but the feelings are the same, even down to the point of not thinking that objects of one’s anger … are fully human. (para 5)
The protagonist was affected so much by the event of killing his first cat that he is no longer able to look at circumstances and others in a rational manner. When his wife prevents him from trying to kill the second cat, his emotions flare out of control, and he sees her no longer as a human being, but effectively as an “enemy,” or an obstacle in his way that he must eliminate. This paranoia, coupled with his alcohol abuse, is what drives the protagonist to sink an axe into his wife’s skull.
Looking carefully into the protagonist in Poe’s “The Black Cat” allows the reader to see the motives behind the his horrendous crimes. It shows the reader that this man was affected by something greatly detrimental to his mental health, in this case, alcohol abuse and paranoia. This story also serves as a good example of what can happen should one become addicted to a substance or what could happen should someone suffer from paranoia and not receive help. Investigating literature with a psychoanalytical outlook helps the world see that there is a reason, whether it be acceptable or not, behind the evil that humankind commits every day. This thought adds a deeper meaning to Poe’s work than is perceived at first glance, and it allows the reader to delve into the true underlying theme which Poe likely meant to convey: the depravity of humanity and its causes.
An Issue Of Rules in The Black Cat
I’m sure we all have broken a rule for the sake of knowing we shouldn’t. Face it. When someone tells you not to press the red button, you really want to press it because you are not supposed to. One can even see this in history; when Prohibition began, the sale of alcohol increased along with the development of speakeasies and boot legging. Why would this happen? People were breaking the law because it was the law, and they were enjoying themselves in the process. Of course, they wanted to see if they could get away with the crime as well. According to the narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat,” we all have a bit of this “perverseness.” This flaw in the narrator’s life is what led him down a destructive path which ultimately ended in the death of his beloved cat and wife. Beginning with his alcoholic problem, readers follow the journey of a madman who follows through with the evil side of himself. For instance, he knew he should not drink because he turned into a completely different person, possessed by “the fury of a demon,” yet he continued to do so anyway. The narrator shows readers that this way of life exists in all of us. What we as readers need to recognize from this story is we should never use the “spirit of perverseness” as an excuse to live poorly and commit foul crimes. When we act against our own morals and commit to the malevolent side of ourselves, the consequences can come back to haunt us.
Pluto, the narrator’s cat, is the symbol of the ultimate irony. Named after the ancient God of the Underworld, he represents a human’s “Spirit of Perverseness,” acting against one’s morals simply because he knows he should not. The narrator’s problems begin in this story because of his perverseness. He addresses the readers when he asks, “Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such?” He killed Pluto because he knew that it had loved him. “…I felt it had given me no reason of offence; — hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin — a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it — if such a thing were possible — even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.” The narrator finds himself struggling with elements of this spirit and subconscious guilt; in his rage, he buries an axe in his wife’s head and entombs her behind a wall in the basement. The guilt is the factor that leads him to purposely reveal the location of his wife’s corpse and condemn him to the gallows.
Something that strikes readers as they read the story is Poe’s way of writing. He is so formal in his narrative that readers think absolutely nothing is wrong. His elevated word choice gives the readers a sense of peace. Claiming his sanity in the beginning, the narrator never alarms the reader as he explains his “docility and humanity” of his disposition. The narrator does not appear to be crazy, and readers have nothing to worry about. With Poe’s superior language, readers gather the narrator is an intelligent man who has simply “lost it” a little because of his drinking problem. Although his over- indulgence contributes to the problem, I think it safe to concur that there are a few screws loose in the narrator’s mind as the story progresses.
The narrator’s nonchalance over the whole situation is astounding. Here is a man who killed his dearly loved wife and cat (not to mention his abuse before he actually committed the murders), and he only relays the story as a series of “mere household events.” In fact, he convinces himself they are “nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.” What happened in the narrator’s life was anything but natural. For instance, after he hangs Pluto, his house suddenly catches on fire, destroying all of his worldly wealth. Despite his wife’s superstition that all black cats are witches in disguise, the narrator refuses to believe his cruel misdeed had any significance in the circumstances. The narrator still lives in his disbelief after he goes back to the scene of destruction to find an image of Pluto with a noose around his neck engraved upon the only standing wall. After a long reflection, the narrator believed this image became engraved on the wall when a person found the carcass hanging from the tree in the garden, removed it from the tree, and threw it through his window in hopes to alarm him of the fire. The falling walls compressed Pluto into the fresh plaster, and the combination of lime, flames, and ammonia from the carcass created the image. Now, please tell me. Could that ever logically happen? No. Definitely not. His actions are literally coming back to haunt him, and the narrator blatantly ignores the signs.
Luckily, many of us are smart enough not to press the red button. Unlike the narrator, we do our best to evade the evil side of ourselves. Although most people of the Prohibition era got away with the crimes, the narrator does not for his subconscious guilt gives him away. Because the narrator chose to act against his own morality, he was haunted by his actions. He had at one point loved Pluto and really did love his wife, yet he chose to violate his own feelings. I hope we as readers know what may happen if we follow the hidden “spirit” in our souls. Poe does a wonderful job of showing readers that if we act against our morals and choose to follow through with the evil side of ourselves, our actions will come back to haunt us.
Description Of Loss in The Black Cat
Poe’s Interpretation of Loss
“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe is a very dark and violent short story that contains many different types of loss. The story is narrated by the main character as we observe him sharing events form his past that eventually lead to his demise. Reading from the main characters’ point of view, we are able to grasp a deeper insight into his eventual unstable mind. There are several instances that due to his loss of mental state, consequently result in the loss of people and possessions close to him. It all starts when he abuses and kills his favorite pet, a black cat called Pluto. Then later that night, he loses his house and all of its possessions in an unexplainable house fire. Then lastly, he murders his innocent wife. The combination of these events were a direct result of him losing his mind. Therefore, not only does he physically lose his cat, house, and wife, but he also loses his emotional state of mind.
From the very beginning the narrator reveals to the readers certain events that have occurred in the past that “have terrified, have tortured, have destroyed” him (Poe 395). Immediately, we can see that due to the severity of these events, he has changed. Overtime, he has become this unrecognizable person, causing him to lose his old, normal identity.
His caring character can also be seen in his love for animals. Together with his wife, they own many different pets, including a black cat called Pluto. He describes his relationship with Pluto to be very affectionate as they adored each other’s company. However, as the story progresses, we begin to see a change in the narrator as he becomes more moody and ill-tempered. He also mentions alcohol to also play a factor in his declining mental state. When the narrator returns from a drunken night out, he tries to pick up a scared Pluto, and in doing so Pluto scratches him. In retaliation, the narrator cuts one of Pluto’s eyes out. As a result, the narrators “original soul seemed, at once, to take flight from [his] body; and a more fiendish malevolence, gin-natured, thrilled every fiber of [his] frame” (Poe 696). This horrifying reaction to Pluto’s harmless scratch is not only the beginning of the narrators many terrible acts, but also the start of his mental deterioration.
As the story continues, the narrator’s actions become increasingly terrible. After his cat recovered from his eye incident, the narrator commits the insidious act of killing him, what makes this ever more disturbing is that the narrator acknowledges that the cat didn’t deserve this cruel end to his life. Even though the narrator knows that what he is doing is wrong, he still continued on with killing innocent Pluto. Again, this shows how mentally unstable the narrator has become as he clearly has lost the ability to care for others.
Another form of loss that he suffers is on the same day he killed his cat, his house burns down. This leaves him and his wife homeless with all their possessions lost in the fire. Strangely, only one wall still stood up after the fire. This wall contained a slightly raised image of a gigantic cat with a rope around its neck. Seeking this image on the wall troubles the narrator as he believe it’s related to the incident with Pluto. As it is not how the fire started, one could say the narrator lost his house as a result of karma for killing his cat.
After the events of the house fire, the narrator finds and befriends another black cat on a drunken night out. This cat looks very similar to Pluto, but it initially doesn’t bother the narrator as he takes the cat home with him. The next day however, the narrator notices this cat only has one eye just like Pluto. Seeing this similarity between this cat and Pluto causes the narrator to avoid it as much as he could as it reminded him of the terrible things he did to Pluto. However, the cat would never leave the narrators side, constantly following him around and pining for his affection. One day, the narrator along with his wife head down to the cellar. The cat also followed them, and out of pure frustration towards this new cat, the narrator picks up and axe and swings it towards the cat in an attempt to kill it. His wife tries to stop him but in doing so, enrages the narrator even more as he then swings the axe at her, ultimately killing her. His reaction to what he had just committed again reiterates how unstable his mind is, as his first thought after he murders her is to conceal his wife’s body. A typical, normal reaction would show at least some sort of remorse, but as we saw earlier in the incident with Pluto, he lost that ability to feel those types of emotions. Instead, “evil thoughts became [his] sole intimates, the darkest and most evil thoughts” (Poe 699).
Analyzing these terrible events that were caused by the narrator, one can see how he loses his mental state. As the buildup of these events continued to result in crueler outcomes, he also gradually loses his mentality with each event. In the end, it results in the narrator losing his mind altogether. He also loses his identity and who he once was because before all of these events, he was said to be a caring and gentle person. And lastly, he loses everyone and everything in his life as is wife and cat are murdered and his house along with all of his possessions burnt down in a fire.
Damn Cat: The Blasphemous Spirituality of Poe’s The Black Cat
In the tradition story-telling, few concepts are as popular as supernatural intervention into human life. These interventions typically feature a very familiar, nearly house-hold collection of descriptive forms: angels, demons, invisible kinetic forces, and even nature itself are all used as representations of divinity, and unknowable power. It is the mark of a true master to escape from this gallery of cliché and craft details which make a unique statement; in Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Black Cat, so much is accomplished in chilling, gruesome style. For Poe, the Christian concept of God is irrelevant, and he writes from a position of his own morality, in which there is no guardian, no benevolent light to guide souls from the path of darkness. There is only unstoppable, disembodied retribution, as the abuses of the narrator are punished not spiritually, in the next life, but in the present, with shocking violence. Following original sin, in which the narrator slices out one of his beloved cat Pluto’s eyes with a pocket knife in repayment of “a slight wound upon the hand” (Poe 30), madness rapidly begets madness, as patterns of destruction invert upon the narrator’s life and psyche. The lack of a clear antagonist in the story is essential. Pluto, alcohol, the house fire, and the gallows: distinct events and narrative aspects, each touched by an unspecified element of the supernatural, run together like the frames of a film reel, weaving a concept of spirituality in which evil is not a part of life, but a vast, looming framework in which the trappings of mortal life are but small parts. In The Black Cat, horror itself is the only God which Poe recognizes, fear is far from abstract, and morality is enforced not by a righteous, perfect creator, but through vicious twists of madness and fate.
Key to a correct interpretation of this tale is the narrator’s devil-may-care regard for the concept of a rational explanation. In his own words, “I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity” (Poe 31). There is no true sensible explanation for the image of the hung cat appearing in the wreckage of the sudden fire, just as there is no true sensible explanation for the mad swings of violent temper the narrator repeatedly experiences. Instead, a reader is forced to turn away from reality, to the world of the extra-sensory, the world of fate, insanity, fortune, and doom. In Poe’s imaginings, this second world is every bit as real as the first, fully capable of crossing boundaries of perceptions to leave a damning message on a crumbling wall, the breast of a cat, or at the bottom of a gin bottle. Of course, Poe is not merely a teller of ghost stories and bloody parables; his work The Black Cat is notably lacking in any formal theological or mythological structure in which to place the supernatural events which occur. In an ideologically mature literary decision, Poe shuns dogma, be it Christian or even Pagan, in favor of humanity’s ultimate boogey-man: the unknown.
In addition, spare moments of irony, hidden between the actions packed lines of this brief tale, do much to illustrate its anti-Christian themes. It is no coincidence the first cat, Pluto, shares a name with the Roman god of the underworld; this parallel emphasizes the strength of superstition over traditional faith. Also, in a quiet instance of reflection following the murder of his wife with an axe, Poe’s narrator remarks, “I determined to wall it [the body] up in the cellar – as the monks of the middle ages are recorded to have walled up their victims” (Poe 33). This unusual portrayal of monks as having victims is not incidental, and the conversational tone serves to underline the sense of inexplicable comfort with which society accepts and overlooks the bloodier aspects of organized religion. Religious individuals themselves are not the only ones to fall under criticism; the essential Christian concept of man as uniquely holy is excellently satirized as the narrator laments, “A brute beast – whose fellow I contemptuously destroyed – a brute beast to work out for me – for me a man, fashioned in the image of the High God – so much of insufferable wo!” (Poe 32) To conceive of a murderous, raving drunkard as sacrosanct, as being essentially removed by virtue of creation from the abject madness of the animal world, is laughable. Yet, in context, it is an intentionally bad joke, one to be met with quiet horror, eliciting new thought in regards to just what exactly elevates mankind from the cruelty of his environment. That is, if there ever has been any true elevation, at all.
Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Black Cat is a thematically rich, grisly tour-de-force, one in which concepts of alcoholism, vengeance, violence, and fate are tackled in raving triplicate. However, the story’s true brunt is carried in its twin absence of rationality, and of the presence of God. Miracles occur, as mere splotches of white fur change slowly into accusations of murder, but these miracles exist without an established faith to claim responsibility for them. Fear comes alive in The Black Cat, mocking the narrator as he builds about himself the house of his own demise. As to what is truly behind it all, Poe offers no answer, only the knowing implication that every choice, once chosen, carries inescapable consequence.
Works Cited Poe, Edgar Allen.
“The Black Cat”. Introduction to Literature. Ed. Manya Lempert. Tucson: University of Arizona. 2015. 29-35. Print.
The Black Cat: How the Mystery Effect Is Achieved
When you are trying to find treasure, you follow the map. When you read a story, you listen to the narrator. Once you get to the final destination, you might not find treasure, a disappointment which would mean that you had a deceptive map. Similarly, the events might not come out to be as you predicted, so the narrator would be unreliable. You have to dig deep in the ground so that you can find out if the treasure is truly there. In the same way, as a reader, you have to dig deeper and read critically to figure out whether the narrator is reliable or not. “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe concerns a narrator who is telling the reader his story about how he ended up where he is: in jail. It all starts when he gets a cat named Pluto that loves him until it gets abused which leads to many other horrific events. It becomes obvious that the narrator has no conscience because Poe reveals the type of character he really is. In “The Black Cat,” the narrator indicates many signs of being unreliable, as he makes the reader question which details to believe, denies being insane, and states how he became perverse.
To start off, the narrator starts to tell the reader his story with some details that might, in and of themselves, not be trustworthy. He begins to inform the reader what the story is about by stating that his story is “without comment, a series of mere household events” (Poe 3). This means that the events that follow up to explain his situation are absolutely normal and relatable for others. While reading, the reader remembers this and discovers that that is not the case, and ordinary events are not told. Additionally, the narrator blames one and only one thing for the cause of all the situations he has been in: alcohol. He said, “But my disease grew upon me – for what disease like Alcohol” took over and made him ill-tempered (Poe 5). The night that he was intoxicated, Pluto bites the narrator which makes the narrator furious who ends up cutting one of Pluto’s eyes out. With many events like that, the reader can judge his actions and conclude that alcohol was not the cause of every problem. Instead, it was the root of his downfall and led to all the bad habits he ended up with. Even if it did cause every problem, the reader cannot trust everything that is narrated because he was probably not in his senses and half of his story would just be assumptions. In general, many statements are false, but the narrator mentions them to convince the reader to believe him.
Moreover, another thing the narrator does is claim that he is not mentally ill right at the beginning. He had to say, “Yet mad am I not – and very surely do I not dream” right off the bat because he believes it is essential that the reader should be able to trust him since the things he says are abnormal (Poe 3). However, it is an obvious sign that the narrator is insane because of the fact that he is trying to prove that he is not. Even though he just said he is not crazy, the narrator tells the reader “to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul” (Poe 3). He wants to be relieved and begins to confess all of the horrendous crimes that he had committed. This becomes suspicious since it is not expected for him to try and convince the reader of his sincerity after telling them he is going to die for his actions. An implication can be formed about the narrator not delivering the right facts about the circumstances which would inform the reader to disbelieve his words. To sum up, the reader cannot trust the narrator’s words as he is mentally unstable and is telling an ambiguous story.
Finally, more unreliability comes from the narrator when he declares that he has become wicked. As time passed, the spirit of Perverseness took over and the narrator defended himself by questioning “Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a stupid action, for no reason than because he knows he should not?” (Poe 6). He wanted the reader to have some sympathy because people can do stupid actions because of the same reason, but it was not acceptable. He thought it was okay to hang the cat that had once loved him so much. The reader cannot trust the narrator now because he knew he had committed a crime, but it had not bothered him when doing so. Moreover, he did not have a conscience when he killed his wife and walled her up with pleasure because she seemed like an obstacle. Once he got rid of her, he had admitted “…I soundly and tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder upon my soul” (Poe 13). There was no sign of guilt after he had done something totally unnecessary, but what he had considered worthwhile. The reader cannot believe someone who is a criminal wholeheartedly because none of his actions bothered him. Rather, the narrator was proud of what he had done. In conclusion, the words of a wicked criminal cannot be plausible since that is not sensible.
Overall, the narrator of “The Black Cat” is not trustworthy because he confuses the reader with his words as he tells the story, states that he is not crazy, and has a natural maliciousness inside of him. He reveals statements about him that could be beneficial because the reader could believe him. The narrator also denies that he is mentally ill even though he is getting punished for his crimes. His crimes were an effect of his soul being evil. His actions were not morally right, but he did not even feel guilty. The reader can infer all of this about the narrator because they dig deep into the story to figure it out. So the next time you read, make sure you dig all the way, because you may not have a foolproof map to the real state of affairs; you could be dealing with an unreliable madman of a narrator.
A Comparison of The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe and The Cat from Hell by Stephen King
Depicted in the acclaimed short story “The Black Cat” (1843) by master of macabre, Edgar Allan Poe and “The Cat From Hell” (1977) by contemporary horror brilliance, Stephen King is a composition of suspense strategies, which engenders fear and curiosity that allows authors to manipulate their audience. Both pieces were initially published in an American magazine, Poe’s in an issue of the United States Saturday Post during the Romanticism and King’s in Post-Modernism Cavalier. However, despite the fact these tales give the impression of being abundantly alike in terms of feline revenge, the application of techniques in “The Black Cat” vastly differs from that of “The Cat From Hell” as a result of the authors’ contrasting background and respective time period.
To begin with, both tales incorporate an unusual situation where in a cat is ‘responsible’ for vengeance. King and Poe are both seen to favor descriptive language and personification to build a visual image of his characters and furthermore hint its paranormal symbolism. An instance would be from the latter’s tale where the speaker accuses the cat of plotting murder against him, “The cat,-, nearly [threw] me headlong.” In King’s piece, the speaker uses descriptive language in “Its face was an even split: half black, half white.” With context of his Post-Modernism period, this is a plausible reference to how the cat’s appearance mirrors the balance of the scale of justice.
Another unassailable instance of resemblance is that both stories render an unusual character. Both narratives use characterization to cast a personality that is unreliable, developing a sense of uncertainty and confusion in the audience. Poe’s speaker confesses how his attitude had completely aggravated through fiend alcohol addiction. In a 1977 publication (“Grappling with the Monster”), author T.S Arthur states how alcohol was deemed an anathema thus preventing individuals from thinking lucidly in the mid-19th century. Similarly, King’s Drogan- who deems the cat demonic- is also head of the biggest drug company in the fictional world. His corporation supplies Tri-Dormal-phenobarbin, which allegedly contains “mild hallucinogen” and is “habit-forming”. This suggests that Drogan might have been consuming his own goods and therefore hallucinating everything.
Despite these patent similarities, the two seemingly same tales of horror in fact share a handful of pivotal differences.
One evident difference is the respective authors’ take on an unusual setting. In “The Black Cat”, Poe uses limited to no imagery with regards of communicating the setting except its darkness. He is well aware that ambiguity can manipulate the audience into discomfort as information is being withheld. On the other hand, King extensively incorporates visual, tactile and auditory imagery majorly using descriptive language to build a vivid illustration of a bleak and abandoned setting. The contrast may be a consequence of their respective eras. As a part of Romanticism, Poe’s stylistic choices include less direct, poetic imagination and romantic irony to remain prosaic. Post-Modernism horror on the contrary, relies on graphic descriptions in order to level with animation and films.
Another dissimilarity that is present is the application of ironic devices. Although both tales convey situational irony, “The Black Cat” manifests duality in harming the pet (Pluto) the speaker once claimed to be his “ favorite pet and playmate”. On the other hand, King’s piece depicts the element of surprise as a domestic cat annihilates a professional hit man. With both authors coming from a relatively broken home with the absence of a father figure, the human-feline relationship that occurs in the story perhaps is how Poe and King perceive and approaches their past relationships with their family.
A final difference encountered within the stories is the implementation of foreshadowing. In Poe’s piece, the gallows formed from the white section of the second cat’s fur foreshadows the speaker’s death; hung as a consequence of murdering his wife. He takes this sign seriously and does not let his guard down. On the other hand, King’s character, Halston, felt that cats were designed specifically as “killing machines” and were the “hitters of the animal world” but decides to neglect this thought, preferring to think logically. This eventually leads to his death. Poe’s isolation-triggered psychological deprivation in his childhood is a possible inspiration of the paranoia seen in his speaker. As for King, he is seen to be more inclined to characters that the general audience would relate to in order to increase sales, as that is how he makes a living.
On the surface, techniques these influential authors used to build suspense in stories “The Black Cat” and “The Cat From Hell” are akin to one another, but scrutinized, they share numerous contrasting elements under the circumstances of their respective context and period. Although both stories apply likewise unusual situations and characters, Poe’s implementation of unusual settings, ironic devices and foreshadowing distinguishes itself from that of Stephen King’s. Nevertheless, both short stories display a plethora of valid devices and techniques that encapsulates the ideas and environment of two distinct yet equally legendary macabre geniuses.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Gothic Elements
Traditional Gothic characteristics were originally exemplified by Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto. This text was the first novel of its kind to introduce, a suspenseful atmosphere, ancient prophecies, and metonymy of horror. Novels and stories frequently revisit the same elements when creating a gothic tale, but can also use other characteristics to create the same essence of Castle of Otranto. The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe uses an abundance of adjectives to set a gloomy scene, but also uses the narrator’s emotional distress and supernatural curiosity to structure the gothic tale. Edgar Allen Poe is widely known for making some of the greatest Gothic texts, but also has very distinct characteristics throughout his, modeling after Walpole, but also creating a standard for future texts. Most of Poe’s works are easily identified as gothic due to the theme of death and decay, although that is not always the theme being portrayed by the story until later in the work.
In The Black Cat it is made apparent, that death is a common subject, but the beginning is primarily an internal struggle within the narrator. As a writer, Edgar Allen Poe has to create characters with depth, that add to the suspense of the story. In response, most of his characters have some sort of mental illness, or eventually go mad. While reading from the narrator’s perspective, the readers are concerned about the mental state of their story teller, but sometimes forget the context of the story being told. In the opening of The Black Cat the narrator says “Yet, mad am I not” proclaiming his mental state early, allowing the reader to look deeper into his character, but forgetting the scene setting given n the same same page. The opening also tells readers that the narrator is telling this story the day before his execution, allowing readers the try and create a story before the narrator elaborates his confession. He says he married young and her “disposition not uncongenial with my own”, ironic how happy his wife made him, but would later be literally be the hand of her unhappy fate. It is made quite apparent in the beginning, after stating that recent household events presented the narrator with horror, that this is a gothic text, but with some missing tell-tale elements such as a castle.
Continuing into the story, Poe’s black cat character named Pluto, is introduced and creates a basis of preceding events. Looking at Pluto analytically, Pluto is the Roman God of the underworld, which makes sense because this creates that theme always present in gothic texts, but not yet alluded to in The Black Cat; death. This theme is not outwardly stated, but had to be interpreted when being presented to this character so early on. Death is a theme made apparent later in the text, but is often presented throughout gothic texts. When the narrator finally kills Pluto, the connection between his name and his fate is presented, when he “reappears” as an apparition in the fire. If the cat Pluto is being represented as a god, then it can be assumed he can reincarnate himself to terrorize the narrator who killed him. Poe choose to keep the theme death hidden to add suspense and a more iconic ending although usually presented early on. In the following scenes the narrator, still not evidently mentally ill, begins to illustrate his problem with alcohol, ultimately creating the dissolution of the first black cat. “I grew day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings for others.” He claims another being possessed him to kill his cat, that it was not truly him who killed Pluto, but can the cruel murder be attributed to his alcohol and in personal opinion, his mental state which is beginning to deteriorate at this point in in the story. The two themes that eventually coincide, madness and death, promote Edgar Allan Poe’s classic Gothic structure.
Another Gothic element usually presented in gothic texts, has to do with the supernatural, which Poe almost always manages to present in his stories. In The Black Cat, Poe yet again keeps this theme hidden, making the reader interpret multiple things to come to the conclusion of a supernatural presence. The first example is the suggestion made by the narrator’s wife of the similarity between cats and witches. In history, cats are associated with witches due to their malevolent nature, and their nocturnal lifestyle. After the death of the first cat the narrator sees the image of the cat with the noose around its neck while the house is on fire. It can be debated whether he sees the image due to his failing mental state, or if it is something supernatural, an effect of him killing the first cat. Once the cat is replaced with a coincidentally similar cat, the reader should wonder if the coincidence has to do with a celestial being, or in other words the dead cat. Poe decides to use the supernatural as a gothic element in his stories because of the interesting aspect in a dark story. At the time The Black Cat was written, readers were intrigued by the unknown, not too different than audiences of today. When a writer decides to explore topics like this, one that can be looked into further other than the context given, it excites readers therefore making it a popular, and much anticipated aspect in Gothic literature, but more specifically Edgar Allen Poe works. After seeing the apparent apparition, the narrator convinces himself, what he saw was untrue, but the terror still haunts him “it did not less fail to make a deep impression upon my fancy.”
A Gothic story would not truly be Gothic without a suspenseful ending. After trying to murder the second cat, the narrator ends up butchering his wife, which gives the anticipated audience of the time the ending they await. The suspense and metonymy of horror, are crucial elements in Gothic literature, and usually are saved for the climax of the story, which Poe successfully created. In The Black Cat, the narrator claims the cat waited for him behind the walls, to have the police catch him as if the cat created a master plan. Although this idea is believable in this time period, readers could also still be thinking the of cat as a celestial being. This cat alone is represented by many gothic themes, without the context of the story, black, nocturnal, evil, and now supernatural which Poe uses to entertain readers. Thinking back to the beginning, readers must remember this is his confession, in which he blames the black cat for all his wrongdoings. If readers correctly interpreted the narrator’s opening they would know the wife’s outcome, another literary Element Poe’s gothic texts are known for is the foreshadowing, although it is not a standard in his works.
Edgar Allen Poe uses literary elements to make his stories his own original texts although the Gothic genre was created. Poe writes his texts modeling The Castle of Otranto, but overall the style is based on the audience in existence and his preferred style of writing utilizing his typical elements. In The Black Cat the themes of death, the supernatural and madness are hand in hand with the melancholy setting to create classic works of Gothic Literature.