The Black Cat Analysis Essay
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Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Black Cat immerses the reader into the mind of a murdering alcoholic. Poe himself suffered from alcoholism and often showed erratic behavior with violent outburst. Poe is famous for his American Gothic horror tales such as the Tell-Tale Heart and the Fall of the House of Usher. “The Black Cat is Poe’s second psychological study of domestic violence and guilt. He added a new element to aid in evoking the dark side of the narrator, and that is the supernatural world.” (Womack). Poe uses many of the American Gothic characteristics such as emotional intensity, superstition, extremes in violence, the focus on a certain object and foreshadowing lead the reader through a series of events that are horrifying…show more content…
They named the cat Pluto, which is the name of the god of the underworld in Roman mythology. He mentions that his wife “…made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise” (Poe 513). He says that he is only writing this because he just remembered her saying it to him. On the night of the day that he hung Pluto, he awoke to his house burning down. An image of a gigantic cat with a rope around its neck appeared in the plaster of one of the walls. While patronizing one of his drinking haunts, he sees a very large black cat and thinks it could replace Pluto and take away his pain. He asked if he could purchase the cat, but no one had ever seen the cat before, so he brings it home. The next morning he discovers the cat has a very similar physical trait as Pluto, a missing eye. There was something different about this cat, it had a white mark on the breast of its fur. As time went on the white marking on the cat became a more pronounced outline of the gallows. It was the howl, “…a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell” (Poe 518) that revealed to the police his wife’s body that he had buried in the wall. This presents a question, was Pluto a witch in disguise that returned from the dead to burn the house down and drive his master into complete
This terrifying tale embodies Poe's ideas about the pathological workings of the criminal mind. Poe believed that criminals are disposed to give themselves away not because of guilt but from the anticipated pleasure of defying moral authority. The narrator seems to relish the notion that his crime of hanging Pluto is a sin "beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God." His otherwise inexplicable act of preventing the police from departing and rapping on the bricks that conceal his wife's body is driven by the narrator's desire to "cap" his "triumph."
At the very start of this account, the narrator says, "for the most wild yet homely narrative I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief." Yet he couches his tale as a confession, and this clearly requires that we give his tale credibility. Throughout his account, the narrator undercuts his own credibility. He says, for example, that his purpose is to relate the events of his crime, which he characterizes as "a series of mere household events," "plainly, succinctly, and without comment." But he nonetheless immediately digresses by talking about the superstitious association between black cats and witches, which he mentions "for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered." Later on, he claims that he is "above" attempting to discern a sequence of cause and effect behind the appearance of the dead Pluto's image on the charred wall, but in the very next paragraph, he advances a speculative theory of how this occurred.
The narrator never take responsibilities for his deeds. He blames the Fiend Intemperance, he then points to the spirit of PERVERSENESS, but ultimately, it is Pluto and his replacement that the narrator identifies as the real culprit(s). Fusing Pluto and the second cat together, he claims that it is the "Arch-Fiend" cat "whose craft has seduced me into murder." At the same time, the narrator symbolically shares the most outstanding feature of the two cats that he comes to despise. Like both of these felines, the narrator is half-blind, committing horrid acts but being unable to clearly see what has happened. As the tale unfolds, the language he uses connotes feral characteristics, as when he tells us of his "rabid" desire to make conversation with the police, or says that he frequented "vile haunts." By the tale's conclusion, we know that rather than being a victim of a hellish beast, the narrator is himself the real beast.