The Black Cat Literary Criticism Essay
, Research Paper
The Black Cat
By Edgar Allan Poe
There are several characters mentioned in the story, but the most important is nameless narrator, who has tenderness of heart to his companions. He was fond to his animals and he was pleased to find out that his wife is similar to him. They had many pets including birds, gold fish, dog, rabbits, small monkey, and a cat. Pluto as he was called, was the narrator s favorite pet. He gave him food so that cat followed him wherever he went. Sometimes his wife would refer to an old belief that black cats are unlucky.
The conflict in this story is man vs. man or in this case mans vs. cat. As the narrator begins to tell a story using flash back the reader discovers that man s personality has undergone drastic transformation from abusive using of alcohol. The conflict begins when the cat bit the narrator. At this point he started to be very abusive to the animal. Considering the fact that Pluto bites him only in elf defense, he should understand his behavior. However his mind created him as a greatest enemy which is trying to destroy him. Therefore the story is filled with violence; the things narrator did to the cat were I would say inhuman. No–at least I think– normal human being would caught his own loved cat and cut his eye out. At this point reader can clearly see that narrator has some mental problems. But once again the story surprises us by shocking act of the narrator. In cold blood he takes his cat hung him on a tree.
The resolution to the conflict is very simple. Since the character got ride of the Pluto, he felt that he was missing something. He simply bought a new cat. Therefore instead of tranquilization he found his new pet even worse enemy than Pluto. Soon the cat becomes his obsession and once again reader is confused what is causing this sudden change in narrators thinking. As he begins to go crazy again he decide to kill the cat. At this point the reader is wondering why is he doing that because it seems to be no reason for such act. Making the case logical, one must be remembered that the state of the narrator s mind is unstable. All events are described for the reader by alcoholic who has distorted view of reality. With a series of causes and effects he kills his wife and hides her into the chimney. What was really strange is when police was searching the house cat didn t give any sound. It was not until the narrator raped heavily with cane upon the wall, that the cat responded. Police found the animal sitting on wife s body showing the narrator s guilt.
As the story begins, the narrator is in jail awaiting his execution, which will occur on the following day, for the brutal murder of his wife. At that point, the rest of the story is told in flashback, as the narrator pens “the most wild, yet homely narrative whose events have terrified, tortured, destroyed him.”
“The Black Cat” is psychological study of domestic violence and guilt; however, this story does not deal with premeditated murder. The reader is told that the narrator appears to be a happily married man, who has always been exceedingly kind and gentle. He attributes his downfall to the the spirit of perverseness.” Perverseness, he believes, is “…one of the primitive impulses of the human heart.” Perverseness provides the rationale for otherwise unjustifiable acts, such as killing the first cat or rapping with his cane upon the plastered-up wall behind which stood his wife’s body. We might argue that what the narrator calls “perverseness” is actually moral sense. Guilt about his alcoholism seems to the narrator the “perverseness” which causes him to maim and kill the first cat. Guilt about those actions indirectly leads to the murder of his wife who had shown him the gallows on the second cat’s breast. A warped sense of triumph and the conscience of the murderer cause the exposure of the crime. Poe has added a new element to aid in evoking the dark side of the narrator, and that is the supernatural. The story has a twist as the narrator hopes that the reader, like himself, will be convinced that these events were not an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.