The Black Cat Essay, Research Paper
The Black Cat
Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story called ?The Black Cat? which first appeared in the United States Saturday Post on August 19, 1843. I chose to write about this story because it is a well-written story by one of my favorite authors. However, the critics at the time gave the story mixed reviews. Poe?s works have been getting mixed reviews from the time he started writing to the present. This may be because many people did not like to read stories about murder and horror. Also, some critics criticized Poe?s work because of his lifestyle. Poe led a very troubled life riddled with Drug and Alcohol abuse and bouts of depression. Poe was also in poor health and seemed to concentrate on writing about death or the dying. However, while these things repelled many people, many people found Poe?s works and personal life fascinating and interesting.
?The Black Cat? is short story about a man and his cat. At he beginning of the story the Narrator is in a jail cell waiting to face his execution for the death of his wife. Before his scheduled execution the next day the narrator finds it necessary to explain the circumstances which will lead to his execution. He uses flashbacks to convey his story to the reader. From the narrator?s time of infancy he had been noted for his humanity towards others. He was also made fun of from his friends for being so nice. ?Docility and humanity of?disposition?the jest of his companions? (Poe Decoder-?the black cat?) The narrator also loved animals. His parents (narrator?s) loved animals and was indulged with different varieties of animals because of it. The narrator?s wife also loved pets. They had a very nice black cat, which was called ?Pluto?. Out of all the pets Pluto was the narrator?s favorite. ?He alone fed him, and he attended him wherever he went about the house. It was even with great difficulty that he could prevent the cat from following him through the streets?(McGraw literature p.103) their friendship lasted several years until the man?s personality began to change. He grew ?day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others?. (McGraw) The narrator started drinking and one night while walking home intoxicated the cat avoided his presence. He grabbed Pluto and because out of fear bit the hand of his owner. Enraged at this action the narrator took one of Pluto?s eyes. ?In the meantime, the cat slowly recovered. He went about the house as usual, but as somewhat grieved by the cat?s actions; however, this feeling turned into irritation?. (McGraw-?the black cat) Then one morning in cold blood the narrator put a noose around the cat and hung him from a tree. That same night a fire ravaged the narrator?s home. He and his family were not harmed. The only thing that remained from the house was a wall. On this wall was what looked like a figure of a cat with a noose around his neck. For months, the narrator could not forget what had happen. He then started to look for a new cat to take the place of Pluto. While drinking at a tavern one night he noticed a black cat in the corner. The cat looked just like Pluto, the cat even was missing one of his eyes except for a white patch on his chest. When the narrator left for the night the cat followed him home. The cat became a great favorite with his wife so they decided to keep him. During the time the cat was with them, his wife kept pointing out the white patch on the cat?s chest. The white patch grew into the shape of the gallows. But as with Pluto the narrator started to have a hatred for the cat. The cat would not ever leave him. He could feel the cat?s breath upon his face while he slept. Over time the narrator?s temper turned into hatred of all things and of all mankind. One day while going to the cellar the cat followed the narrator down the stairs causing him to trip. The man was so enraged he picked up an ax to kill the cat but his wife upon stopping him was killed by it instead. The next step was to conceal the body. He thought of many things like cutting the body into small pieces, and burning them. Maybe he could bury it in the cellar floor. Finally after many thoughts, he found the perfect solution. He would ?…wall the body up in the cellar, as the monks of the Middle Ages were recorded to have walled up their victims?(McGraw-?The Black Cat?). With a crowbar the narrator dislodged the bricks and carefully put the body inside the wall. Afterwards, he..?Prepared a plaster which could not be distinguished from the old, and with this he very carefully went over the new brick work?the wall did not present the slightest appearance of having been disturbed?(McGraw-?the Black Cat?) After he was done he started to look for the cat. He could not find the cat anywhere. So the narrator figured that the cat was frightened and ran away. For days the cat never reappeared. A few people asked about his wife but he answered those easily. On the fourth day since the murder the police came. They left no nook or corner unexplored. They searched the cellar three or four times and were satisfied and were fixing to leave when the narrator said ?Gentlemen, I delight to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health and a little more courtesy. By the bye, gentlemen, this-this is a very well constructed house?I may say an excellently well-constructed house. These walls?are so solidly put together??(McGraw ) at this point he tapped on the wall where his wife was entombed and was answered with a cry, then one loud continuos scream. The police tore down the wall and found the body of his wife along with the cat. He had walled the cat with his wife.
The ?The Black Cat? is one of Poe?s most powerful stories. Poe wrote the story where the events that took place were somewhat ambiguous. The narrator begins the story stating that he is not insane. The readers may be able find reasonable explanations for the incidents that happened. The reader soon discovers that the man had undergone a drastic change in his personality, which attributed to alcohol and its affect on bringing out the perverse side of his nature. The reader also learns that the narrator is superstitious. The narrator mentions several times the relationship between black cats and witchcraft, death and bad luck. The cat?s name ?Pluto? was symbolic of the Greek god of death.
While presenting a possible supernatural cause for the events that happened in the story Poe also makes a strong case for a logical explanation of these events. Using the technique of foreshadowing Poe carefully suggests that these events to be an ordinary succession of cause and effect. For example, Poe uses Alcoholism as an excuse for the narrator?s distorted view of reality. Poe also gives a very scientific explanation the image of the cat on the wall after the fire. Poe also made it appear logical that the cat would hide from him in the wall where he entombed murdered wife.
Most critics of Poe?s short story ?The Black Cat? have noted and commented on the relationship of this story and several other of his stories such as ?The tell tale heart?. These critics pointed out common themes that fascinated Poe that included perversity, reincarnation, retribution, superstition, guilt, and conscience. Most critics have labeled ?The Black Cat? as a physiological study of the darker side of human nature and guilt. Poe drew on his own life to create the characters of ?The Black Cat? while allowing these characters to have personality of their own. Poe had a drinking problem that caused him to rage just like the character in the story. He feared for the safety of the people around him when alcohol caused him to become violent. He even had a black cat named ?Caterina? which was his favorite pet. Critics have found in this physiological study hints of domestic violence and resentment.
I think that Poe is a lot smarter than the critics gave him credit for. The first time I read the story I came to the conclusion that the cat came back to get the man for torturing it. As I read it a second time I change my opinion. I believe that the man is evil and that he had a cover of being nice and friendly towards other people and animals. At the end of the story after he had killed his wife the narrator stated that he had a good nights rest for the first time in awhile. I believe that ever since the beginning that wanted to get rid of his cats and his wife and do what he wanted to do. The only time he ever got scared was when he thought he would get caught. For example, he got scared when he saw the image of a hung cat upon his wall so he found another cat for his wife. At the end of the story he taps on the wall where his wife was only because he was being cocky in thinking that he was not going to get caught. But the totally opposite happens.
I think Poe?s short story ?The Black Cat? is as entertaining and meaningful today as it was when it was written. I think that Poe had a excellent understanding of the darker side of human nature and the evil is capable of doing.