The Black Cat
Because he is due to die the next day, the narrator has decided to present the facts of a past event that has terrified and destroyed him, although he claims that he is not mad and hopes that someone else will be able to explain his story logically. He begins by describing his kind and humane younger self: he keeps many pets because animals such as dogs are so loving and faithful, and at a young age he marries a woman who also loves pets. In their household they have a number of animals, including a large and beautiful black cat named Pluto. Although his wife often refers to the superstition that black cats are actually disguised witches, the narrator is particularly fond of the unusually intelligent cat. In subsequent years, the narrator becomes increasingly moody and irritable due to alcoholism, and he begins to verbally abuse and threaten his wife as well as his pets. He remains less harsh to Pluto until one day, when he comes home drunk and, imagining that Pluto is avoiding him, he seizes the cat, which bites him on the hand in fear. In response, the narrator loses control and cuts one of Pluto's eyes out with a pen-knife. After sobering up the next morning, he feels a modicum of remorse but returns to drinking. The cat recovers, but it conspicuously avoids its owner, who is at first grieved and later annoyed and provoked. He describes it as a primitive impulse of perverseness that drives him to complete his attack on Pluto by hanging the cat from a tree, although he cries as he does the deed, aware that he has committed a deadly sin on an animal that once loved him. The same night as the cat's death, the house is set on fire, and the narrator, his wife, and his servant barely escape, although he is left with little wealth. Peculiarly, on the single wall that did not fall in the fire is an image of a gigantic cat with a rope around its neck. The narrator explains the phenomenon away, reasoning that someone must have thrown the cat into his window to try to wake him up in the fire and that as other walls fell, they must have compressed the animal into the plaster, where the lime, the heat, and the ammonia from the cat's body combined to form the image. However, he remains disturbed and feels a sense of regret that falls just short of remorse. For months, the narrator searches for a replacement cat, which he discovers while drinking. The new cat resembles Pluto except for a patch of white hair on its chest. The landlord has never seen the animal before, and the cat takes a liking to the narrator, who brings it home. His wife becomes fond of the cat, but the narrator is increasingly annoyed with the cat's affection towards him, and his annoyance turns into hatred. He begins avoiding the cat, although his shame about his previous cruelty prevents him from being violent towards it. His hatred of the animal increases until one day the cat loses one of its eyes. This endears it even more to his loving wife, who has retained the kindness that the narrator admits he used to have. In spite of the narrator's dislike for the cat, it follows him everywhere, and he begins to dread the cat, which he calls a "beast." As his wife often points out, the cat bears a distinct resemblance to Pluto, except for the white patch that the narrator notes has gradually come to resemble a gallows. The narrator fearfully explains that he has lost what was left of his former goodness, and he indulges in hatred and fury, although his wife never complains. At one point, when the protagonist and his wife enter their cellar, the cat trips him. Enraged, he starts to take an axe to the cat, but his wife's hand stops his arm. Furious at her interruption, he strikes her head with the blade, killing her instantly. Realizing that he cannot remove the body from the house, he considers ways to conceal it, including cutting it up and burning it, digging a grave in the cellar, throwing the corpse into the well, and packing it up in a box and having...
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