The Black Cat

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The Bible gives one of the earliest and most famous accounts of the origins of sin and evil. In the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve, who at first live peacefully and without sin in the Garden of Eden, break God's only law by eating an apple from the forbidden tree. An angry God places a curse on Adam, Eve, and all future peoples so that they will now be born with original sin, thus allowing evil to enter the world. Since this ancient story, many have attempted to understand further the development of evil inside the soul of man. A literary pattern has developed which reveals the growth of evil and perverseness inside its characters in the Gothic romance. Gothic romances attempt to create effects of the frightful and perverse through displaying personal wickedness and self-destruction. The noted author Edgar Allan Poe is one such man who had success at writing Gothic romances. Poe is known to work best with the elements of the grotesque and foul, which are key components of a Gothic romance. Poe impressively mapped out the manifestation of evil inside his characters as well as projected conditions of psychic nightmare known to be found in a Gothic romance. One such Edgar Allan Poe story, "The Black Cat" contains a main character, the narrator, who gradually succumbs to evil. The narrator conceals a repressed inner being of evil that is released by the presence of his two mysterious black cats. Throughout the story, Poe utilizes several literary devices to illustrate the narrator's immoral thoughts and actions attributable to his relations with these cats. Therefore, the literary characteristics of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" portray the elements of a Gothic romance. Initially, the plot of "The Black Cat" parallels the plot of a typical Gothic romance. One of the distinct components of the Gothic romance plot that "The Black Cat" fulfills is the creation of the themes of dramatic mystery. H.R. Steeves describes dramatic mystery as containing the themes of "disappearance [. . . or] an unsolved crime" (252). Ann Radcliffe further adds that the destruction of the soul "either through a compact with the powers of evil or the commission of an inexplicable crime" also appears as a theme of dramatic mystery (qtd. in Steeves 253). Likewise, the plot of "The Black Cat" also develops these themes of dramatic mystery; the disappearance, the unsolved crime, and the destruction of the soul. The narrator in the story first creates the theme of disappearance by concealing his murdered wife's body. One day, as the narrator and his wife descend the staircase into the cellar, the black cat causes the narrator to nearly lose his footing. In turn, the narrator flies into a fit of rage and attempts to take an axe to the cat. His wife, trying to save the cat's life, catches hold of the axe. Then the enraged the narrator "burie[s this] axe in her brain" (Poe 146). The narrator, an evil and perverse character, murders his wife as a result of his hatred of the black cat. The degree of this hatred allows him to become so angry at his wife, who tries to prevent him from murdering the cat, that he kills her "with entire deliberation [. . .] concealing [her] body in the cellar wall" to avoid detection of his crime (Poe 146). The narrator's hiding the body in the cellar wall creates the disappearance that is part of dramatic mystery. Since the murder of the narrator's wife goes undetected until the end of the story, the murder produces the unsolved crime that is also a component of dramatic mystery. This crime originally remains unsolved for upon his wife's disappearance, the police arrive to make inquiries and investigate the narrator's home, but find nothing. Although the police "left no nook or cranny unexplored" they are still unsure whether the narrator has murdered his wife until the conclusion of the story (Poe 147). Before the narrator gouges out the cat's eye, he recounts the feeling of his soul taking flight from his body and a more than...
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