"The Black Cat" is a famous short story from horror-master Edgar Allan Poe. It was first printed on August 19, 1843, in the Philadelphia edition of a newspaper called the United States Saturday Post. We think a newspaper is a perfect place for it. This lurid tale reads like something right out of the headlines – bizarre headlines to be sure. Gruesome news items were just as popular in Poe's time as they are in ours.
Like many news stories, "The Black Cat" can be a downer. Stripped to bare bones, it's a story about domestic violence and brutal murder. It's the death-row confession of nameless man who destroys himself, his wife, and his pets. As is often the case with real life murderers, we can't pinpoint exactly why he went out of control. This mystery is part of what has kept "The Black Cat" in circulation for over a 160 years.
Because Edgar Allan Poe is such a fascinating person, and has a popular reputation as a creepy guy, some readers are tempted to imagine that Poe and his narrators are one in the same. As far as we know, Poe was no murderer. He seemed to have loving relationship with his wife, and is reported to have been a cat lover.
A Short Summary of The Black Cat
The narrator of the story starts by telling about his childhood and how compassionate he was. He was particularly fond of animals and had numerous. He married someone with a similar interest, and they had many pets together. However, particular mention is given to a black cat they have together, Pluto, the favourite pet of the narrator. However, because of alcohol, he changes his sunny "disposition" and becomes uncontrollable and more irritable. He mistreats both his wife and his pets. One night, returning drunk, he grabs his cat wildly, and the cat bites his hand. In a rage, he cuts one of the cat's eyes out. He later goes on to take the cat into the backyard and hang it from a tree, because he knows he is committing a terrible sin and he feels guilty. On that same night, his house burns down, reducing his conditions greatly. Later, in the ruined house he finds a picture of a gigantic cat on one of the walls with a rope around its neck. Although he tries to explain this picture away, he is unsettled. He and his wife move to a new house. He continues to drink, and, one night, in the local bar, he finds and adopts another black cat exactly like Pluto, but with a white patch on his breast. This cat stays with him and his wife, but he comes to regard this cat with fear and dread, connecting it with agony and death. One day, he and his wife go down to the cellar to break up some kindling for the winter, his new cat following him and runs under his feet and almost causes him to fall. Enraged, he raises the axe, aiming to throw it at the cat, but his wife grabs his arm, Overwhelmed by anger, he turns and kills her instead. He thinks of ways of disposing of her body and eventually decides to tear down a brick wall in the cellar and buries her body behind it. He does this and is very proud of his work. Finally, the police arrive and search the house, they search the cellar at last, as they are about to leave, he is filled with "bravado", proudly slaps on the very wall behind which he has buried his wife's body saying how well the house is built. The officers hear a strange voice from behind the wall. They get crowbars and break down the wall to find his wife's body with the one-eyed black cat sitting on her head.
The extract from “The Black Cat”
by Edgar Allan Poe
One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me (metaphor). I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my...
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