An Analysis of The Black Cat

Topics: Edgar Allan Poe, Cat Pages: 6 (2441 words) Published: October 26, 2008
Analysis - Like the narrator in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", the narrator of "The Black Cat" has questionable sanity. Near the beginning of the tale, the narrator says he would be "mad indeed" if he should expect a reader to believe the story, implying that has already been accused of madness One of Poe's darkest tales, "The Black Cat" includes his strongest denouncing of alcohol. The narrator's perverse actions are brought on by his alcoholism, a "disease" and "fiend" which also destroy his personality. Allusions - The use of the black cat evokes various superstitions, including the idea voiced by the narrator's wife that they are all witches in disguise. The titular cat is named Pluto after the Roman god of the Underworld. Setting - 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--has tortured--have destroyed [him]." Characters - Although several characters are mentioned in this story, the true focus lies upon the nameless narrator, who is known for his "...docility and humanity of ...disposition. His tenderness of heart...[made him] the jest of [his] companions." He was especially fond of animals, and he was pleased to find a similar fondness for pets in his wife. They had many pets including "...birds, gold fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat." The cat was a large, beautiful animal who was entirely black. Pluto, as he was called, was the narrator's favorite pet. He alone fed him, and Pluto followed the narrator wherever he went. Occasionally, his wife would refer to an old superstitious belief that "...all black cats [were] witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point...." Point of View - Poe writes this story from the perspective of the narrator, a man whose "...temperament and character [are transformed] through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance [alcohol]." Telling the story from the first person point of view (a perspective that Poe used quite frequently), intensifies the effect of moral shock and horror. Once again, the reader is invited to delve into the inner workings of the dark side of the mind. As the narrator begins to tell his story (flashback), the reader discovers that the man's personality had undergone a drastic transformation which he attributes to his abuse of alcohol and the perverse side of his nature, which the alcohol seemed to evoke. The reader also discovers (with the introduction of Pluto into the story) that the narrator is superstitious, as he recounts that his wife made "...frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, [that] all black cats [are] witches in disguise." Even though the narrator denies this, the reader becomes increasingly aware of his superstitious belief as the story progresses. Superstition has it that Satan and witches assume the form of black cats. For those who believe, they are symbols of bad luck, death, sorcery, witchcraft, and the spirits of the dead. Appropriately, the narrator calls his cat, Pluto, who in Greek and Roman mythology was the god of the dead and the ruler of the underworld (symbolism). Biting and mutilation appear. The narrator of "The Black Cat" first becomes annoyed when Pluto "inflicted a slight wound upon [the] hand with his teeth." After he is bitten by the cat, the narrator cuts out its eye. Poe relates "eyes" and "teeth" in their single capacity to take in or to incorporate objects. This dread of being consumed often leads the narrator to destroy who or what he fears. Poe’s pronounced use of foreshadowing leads the reader from one event to the next ("one night," "one morning," "on the night of the day," etc.). Within the first few paragraphs of the story, the narrator foreshadows that he will violently harm his wife ("At length, I even...
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