The Black Cat 2 Essay, Research Paper
There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man. (Poe, 100)
Edgar Allan Poe s short story The Black Cat tells a tale of a man whose conscience is embodied by two cats. Through the use of contrasting sentiments, Poe encapsulates the image of a creature consumed so completely in his perverseness that he impulsively commits heinous crimes that involve the two cats. One of the cats evokes in him a loving resentment while the other inspires sheer hatred. His reactions show that although together they symbolize one entity, each of the cats has a different effect on the narrator s emotions.
The first cat the narrator introduces the reader to is Pluto, whom he initially describes as his favorite pet and playmate (100). The relationship between the two is one of mutual admiration, until one night when the narrator comes home drunk. He imagines that Pluto is avoiding him, and spontaneously decides to gauge one of the feline s eyes out. I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty, but it was, at best a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed (101). Pluto eventually recovers from the assault and consequently flees from his master whenever he approaches. At first, the cat s abandonment of the narrator causes the narrator to experience grief. However, this anguish quickly transforms into irritation and the narrator hastily hangs his cat and burns his house down. and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; -hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I knew that in doing so 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 (102). The narrator commits this act out of pure remorse because he treats Pluto, an innocent creature that once was so dedicated to him, so cruelly. To the narrator, Pluto symbolizes all good inside of him. Hence, when he commits any wrongdoing towards the cat, he is persecuting himself. When he hangs Pluto, the narrator is hanging himself.
Whereas Pluto s relationship to the narrator was one of love and fear, the second cat s association was one which displayed utmost love and respect. After Pluto s death, another feline that has a striking resemblance to Pluto mysteriously appears in a pub at which the narrator was having drinks. It falls in love with the narrator, accompanies him home and instantly domesticates itself. Although one would think that such a loyal pet would bring joy to one s life, the animal had the opposite effect on the narrator.
For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within me. This was just the reverse of what I had anticipated; but-I knew not how or why it was-its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted and annoyed me. By slow degrees these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I avoided the creature; a certain sense of shame. And the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty, preventing me from physically abusing it I came to look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently from its odious presence, as from the breath of a pestilence. (104)
While the narrator was so disturbed when Pluto was not in the same place as he was, he cannot handle the second cat s yearning to be his friend. No matter how horribly the cat is treated by the narrator, the feline persists on loving him. The main character repudiates the cat s love and in an effort to do so, attempts to kill the cat, unsuccessfully.
Although Pluto and the other cat trigger conflicting feelings in the narrator, they bring out his true character. Incorporating these completely inverse situations between each of the cats and the narrator illustrates Poe s belief that man is essentially a rule-breaking character. To the narrator, there was merit in killing the cat in that a moral law forbade it. The main character misses Pluto when he is not in the same locale as him, but loathes the second cat that will not leave his side. These are two very distinct views.
An ever-present theme in Edgar Allan Poe s The Black Cat , the spirit of perverseness explains the odd, almost unbelievable conduct of the narrator. While the two cats induce completely different reactions from the narrator, his response is the same to each of them. When Pluto avoids the narrator, the result is Pluto s death, and when the second cat gets too close to the narrator, the death of the narrator s completely loving and innocent wife results. Poe s picture of a man so affected by two cats and his reactions to their behaviors paints a perfect picture of how truly immoral man can be.