The Black Cat Short story

Edgar Allan Poe: A Renowned Author

Edgar Allan Poe is a renowned author born on 19th January 1809 and later died in October 1849. He died early, but he had already made an impact not only in the American literature but also in the world literature. Many of Poe’s short stories had the same singularities, but each story has a different creativity. For example in his story ‘The Black Cat’ Poe creates a horror type of image in the reader’s mind which assists captures the reader’s attention quickly.

The Black Cat: An Introduction

The following essay will discuss Edgar Poe’s short story The Black Cat. The story of The Black Cat was first published in August 1843. The main idea of the story revolves around the psychology of guilt.

The Narrator and His Pets

The Black Cat is a story told by a narrator who talks about sanity on the eve of his death despite the wild story he is about to tell. The narrative begins by depicting the years when the narrator was an honorable person in the society and was well celebrated. The narrator confesses a great love for cats and dogs because they know how to respect friendship, unlike fellow men. The narrator marries when young and introduces his wife into the business of owning cats and dogs as pets. Among other pets that the narrator and the wife own include rabbits, donkeys, and a monkey (Poe, 2).

The Strange Behavior of the Narrator

However, the narrator’s favorite pet is the beautiful black cat whom he has named Pluto. The cat loves him as he loves it, but he has violent mood swings due to the influence of alcohol. Thus, he starts mistreating the pets and his wife too but spares Pluto. However, one day he comes home drunk and lashes out at Pluto for avoiding him, only for the cat to bite him. In the process, the narrator gets angry and cuts off one eye from Pluto. Although on the next day he tries to be remorseful, he is unable to reverse the feeling of his black soul. He feels guilty but is overwhelmed by the spirit of perverseness which makes him commit wrong things for the sake of wrong.

The Cat's Revenge and the Burning House

The cat now avoids him for sure as it flees in terror from its master and that makes him feel bad but, he still seeks full revenge. He later hangs Pluto on a tree one morning. Later that night, the narrator’s house burns down, but he refuses to believe that the cat’s death and the house burning had any connection. Only a wall remains standing after the fire, and the neighbors surround it to witness the gigantic cat with a rope around its neck. The narrator tries to come up with a logic explanation that someone had thrown the cat in an attempt to wake him after the fire started. However hard he attempts to explain the situation he finds himself haunted by guilt and he starts missing Pluto.

The Second Cat and the Madness

In his guilt, he goes drinking and discovers a black object, a new cat with a splash of white on its fur that resembles Pluto. He immediately begins to like the cat and develops the fondness he had with Pluto. Probably due to the guilty conscience about killing Pluto the narrator wants to make things right with the new cat. Unfortunately, his anger issues and guilt have not gone away. Soon the narrator begins to hate and fear the cat, in particular with the white fur patches that he sees as shapes of gallows. The shapes of the cat terrify the narrator, and he begins to avoid it. One day, he almost slips over the cat. The narrator gets angry, grabs an ax and attempts to attack the animal, but, his wife defends it. He gets angrier and cannot control it making him cut his wife on the head. He then buries his wife on the wall. He removes the bricks and conceals her body in there and later repairs the wall. Fortunately or unfortunately, the police come to the narrator’s house to investigate the disappearance of his wife, but they find nothing and; therefore, the narrator is free. The cat too disappears and the narrator concludes it ran away due to his anger (Kwee, 16).

The Unraveling of the Truth

Filled with a guilty conscience, he keeps trying to allay the police officers’ suspicion. He comments on the craftsmanship of the house and taps on the wall in which he has buried his wife. As he taps the wall with a cane, the wall caves in and a wailing of a cat is heard. The police rip down the wall and find a body and the cat sitting on the head of his rotting wife. The narrator is shocked and says, “I had walled the monster up within the tomb.” (Poe, 20)

The Narrator's Descent into Madness

The Black Cat follows the narrator’s journey to insanity after he has proclaimed that he is sane. In the story, the narrator confesses that alcoholism has interfered with his grasp for the real, and he has frequent mood swings. Alcohol just like the cat are the external factors that affect the sanity of the narrator. After the death of the cat, another cat with white fur shapes appears. This plot twist explains the insanity of the narrator who might have been imagining of a new cat due to the guilt that ate him inside after killing the first cat, Pluto. The other evidence of guilt is the ability of the cat to survive behind the wall where the narrator has buried his wife. Maybe, engulfed in his guilt the narrator secretly wished that the cat, Pluto, would have survived after he hangs him on a tree. He misses that cat, but the anger and pervasiveness in him inhibit his abilities to feel bad for his actions.

Guilt or Anger?

He blames the second cat for seducing him to murder his wife, and the same cat had made the police know the truth about the death. When the narrator cuts Pluto’s one eye, it symbolizes then inability if the narrator to see any good in his life or any moral goodness. He fails to see that the cat is not avoiding him, and in his anger he kills it and is left with a guilty conscience haunting him. This guilty conscience contributes to his ultimate madness. The narrator is mad of course, as he claims to love animals more than man, showing an inability to form normal and healthy bonds with people. Unfortunately for the loved animals especially the cats, they wind up dead or hurt (Kwee, 45).

Anger or Guilt?

On the other hand, the narrator could have just had anger issues that he could not control which led to violence (Kwee, 56). The anger towards life controls his actions towards the animals. He needs attention from the cats but due to his anger issues the cats avoid him a lot. He, in turn, gets angry and kills the cat, Pluto. That anger makes him kill his wife because she has inhibited him from killing the cat with white shaped fur. He takes alcohol to suppress his anger, but instead, alcohol enhances his angry emotions that make him see things in a different way. Thus, earning him the title mad. Notably, when he is drunk, he gets more irritated and sees as if the cats are avoiding him. Ironically, after killing Pluto, who was avoiding him, he starts avoiding the other white-furred cat. It could be argued that his guilty conscience did not cause his actions rather anger issues made him insane.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, psychological of guilt made the narrator’s life a living hell. The narrator is in a constant fight with guilt. He is guilty of his actions, and that makes him do more wrong things for the sake of wrong. He kills his cat, Pluto, while the narrator still claims that he loves animals more than he does men. In an attempt to calm his guilt he comes home with another cat and gains the same fondness he had towards Pluto. However, he later feels guilty and starts to hate the cat and one day as he wants to kill it his wife defends it. He ends up killing his wife. The guilty conscience again makes him tell the police officers indirectly of where he had buried his wife, on the wall.

Works Cited

Kwee, Ayu Hapsari Kurniawan. A Psychoanalysis on Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cat. Diss. Program Studi Pendidikan Bahasa Inggris FBS-UKSW, 2014.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The black cat. Booklassic, 2015.

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