"The Black Cat", one of Poe's most famous works, is one of the most controversial pieces that he's ever written. Poe explored many inappropriate topics and this story was no exception. "The Black Cat" included the very upsetting topics of murder and animal abuse. "The Black Cat" has lived on and is still one of the greatest stories in Gothic literature today. Poe has been described as a poetic genius and many poets in today's times can still not even compare to his amazing work. But how was it possible for him to be THAT good at poetry?
While there are no apparent different races or ethnicities in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat”, there is a relationship between man and animal. In the beginning, the narrator is described as “a sensitive child, alienated from others by virtue of his sensitivity, who turned to animals for companionship.” This is referred to as a “ peculiarity of character” and hints that there was something odd about his feelings toward animals (Matheson 6). In the story, he mentions his fondness for animals and the fact that he had several pets, including birds, goldfish, rabbits, a dog, a monkey and the infamous cat. The relationship early in the story between the narrator and his cat is one of mutual love. He says that the cat, Pluto, was his favorite pet and playmate and that the cat followed him everywhere he went. As the story progresses, the narrator’s feelings toward the cat, as well as his other pets, begins to change and he treats him poorly when he is drunk. One particular night, he returns home and feels as though he has been slighted by Pluto. He snatches him up and Pluto bites his hand. The narrator becomes so enraged that he cuts out one of Pluto’s eyes. The relationship between the man and his cat is forever changed and now Pluto despises him. The narrator ends up hanging Pluto from a tree to rid himself of the evil he feels toward the cat. (Poe) The narrator and his wife's love for animals can also indicate both had a mental disorder. Though love for animals is common, the narrator feels for the animals in almost a "perverse manner". The narrator seems to have suffered a traumatic experience in his childhood years and now faces being socially awkward and permanently scarred. It can be inferred that his father beat his mother, since it has been said that children often will act like their parents. Some of these actions may have also been the result of a mechanism of defense. If the narrator had been abused himself, then he would feel as if he needed to stick up for himself when he was in trouble later. This could also explain the love that the narrator feels for the animals. He is trying to find love that he has never been able to feel during his childhood. The narrator, just like in many of Poe's story, is unreliable. There are many gaps in the story and many events that take place that have no time frame. The reader cannot tell if these events are scattered or are happening very close together. The narrator also feels as if he is being possessed by the spirit of the black cat during most of these events. This indicates that the narrator is not mentally sane enough to tell a story precisely and accurately (Poe's "The Black Cat" as Psycho biography: Some Reflections on the Narratological Dynamics).
In the story, “The Black Cat,” we are introduced to the narrator and his wife. They share similar personalities and a mutual love for animals. They seem to have a very happy life in the beginning, until the narrator begins to suffer the effects of his alcoholism and tendency toward evil. As he grows “more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others,” he begins to verbally abuse and, later, physically abuse his wife (Poe). Poe, in an essay, is described by taking a new form. This form is one of pure evil. His mind becomes infatuated with feeling the love he once felt from his first cat, and with the pleasure of having a companion (Ki)
Ki, Magdalen Wing-Chi. "Diabolical Evil and “The Black Cat”." Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Print.
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Matheson, T.J. "Poe's 'The Black Cat' as a Critique of Temperance Literature ." Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Vol. 196. Detroit: Gale. From Literature Resource Center. (2008): n. page. Print. http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1420082545&v=2.1&u=avlr&it=r&p=LitRG&sw=w
Minor, Mark. Biography of Edgar Allen Poe. Critical Survey of Poetry, 2nd Revised. Pasadena, CA: 2003.
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Shea, Christopher. Rabies, not alcoholism, may have killed Poe. Chronicle of Higher Education. 43. Washington: 1996. Web. <http://search.proquest.com.lib-proxy.jsu.edu/docview/214733309?accountid=11662
Poe's "The Black Cat" as Psychobiography: Some Reflections on the Narratological Dynamics. Studies in Short Fiction . 2. 1998. 153-167.
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