A Glimpse Into the World of “The Black Cat”
Those who have read any of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories know that most of them are full of suspense and mystery and that they efflict a feeling of horror and shock upon the reader. Poe studies the mind, and is conscious of the abnormalities of his narrators and he does not condone the intellectual expedient through which they strive, only too earnestly, to justify themselves. He enters the field of the starkly, almost clinically realistic investigation of men who, although they may feel uneasy about their mental states when their tension lets up, are too far gone to understand their mania, let alone to control it (Gargano 171). His stories usually have a horrible murder theme in which there is a obsessive narrator and they follow the development of the theme step by step with a realism that, barring with genius, might case a history from the twentieth-century psychiatry. This could not be presented more clearly than in “The Black Cat”. Those who may deny realism to Poe cannot be very familiar with our daily newspapers, which periodically carry true stories of murders committed under just abnormal psychological pressures as those described in “The Black Cat” (Buranelli 76). This story begins with the narrator ,who is about to be hung, confessing what he has done in some type of repention for his soul. The narrator step by step describes how he began drinking and then to neglect his dearly beloved cat and his wife. One day when he is maddened by the actions of the cat, he cuts out its eye and later kills the cat by hanging it. After his house burns down and he has lost all he owned he finds a new cat resembling all to well the first. One day while working with his wife in the cellar he is nearly tripped down the stairs by the cat, he then picks up an axe and tries to kill it but his swing is intercepted by his wife and he instead strikes her and kills her instantly. He conceals the body but then when the police come, he in a mocking manner taps the wall in which she is buried and reveals to the police what he has done(Poe). In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat,” his use of point of view, symbolism, foreshadowing, and theme all combine with what he calls “a series of mere household events” to show how the narrator is driven into madness (Poe 1).
Told in the first person point of view by a unreliable narrator, “a term designating one who either consciously or unconsciously distorts the truth”, we are caused to get a one sided story in which we don’t know whether what we are reading is fact of fiction (Prinsky 231). Poe’s use of the first person point of view strengthens the intent of moral shock and horror writes Martha Womack( 5). By beginning the story with the phrase, “For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither solicit belief,” the narrator makes several things quite explicit: that he is writing rather than speaking , that the story, although hard to believe, is true and that he doesn’t expect any one to believe him (Poe 1). He also makes it clear that what he will describe is not the result of madness or a dream, but actual events that took place which he calls “an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects” (Poe 1). When the narrator declares this, he causes the reader to believe quite the opposite of what he is writing, which in fact is that the narrator of the story is crazy and causes us to question if the story is in fact the truth.
By telling the story from the first person point of view readers get the impression that they are only going to learn about what the narrator wants them to know and that they might not learn the whole truth. Although, this point of view is one sided we still learn a lot about the narrator’s feelings towards his cat, but we learn...
Cited: Buranelli, Vincent. Edgar Allan Poe: Second Edition. Boston: Twanyne Publishers, 1977.
Davidson, Edward H. Poe: A Critical Study. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957. 190.
Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1972.
May, Charles E. Edgar Allan Poe: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne Publishers,
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Black Cat.” Ed. Martha Womack. n.page.online. Internet 29 July.
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