Wide reading: The black cat by Edgar Allan Poe

The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe is a short story told in a first person narrative. The story follows a man who has had a passion for animals from a young age. He and his wife owned many pets including birds, goldfish, a dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat named Pluto. The man had a loving relationship for many years until the man becomes an alcoholic. One night, after returning from the bar drunken, the man believes pluto to be avoiding him deliberately. The man attempts to seize the cat and is bitten in return. In a moment of drunken rage the man retrieves a pocket knife from his pocket and intentionally gouges one of pluto’s eyes out. Pluto follows suit after this incident and flee’s when his master approaches. The man firstly feels remorse and then irritation. In one final incident of drunken anger he hangs the cat in the garden one morning. That night his house mysteriously catches fire. He is forced to flee. In the morning he searches the ruins only to find one section of the wall still standing above where the head of his bed lay. On the wall, a white outline of a cat with a noose around its neck sat imprinted on it. The man is disturbed by the image but it soon turns into remorse for his actions. He hates himself for his actions and goes to the pub to drown his sorrows. After getting terribly drunk he finds a big black cat creeping around the pub. Being drunk and very guilty for having done what he did, he decided to adopt the cat and bring it home. This cat also had one eye missing but had a white patch under the breast. The man begins to fear and avoid the cat as he feels the burden of the murder of pluto. He seems to think that over a space of time,the patch of white becomes more like a depiction of the gallows. One day him and his wife went down to the cellar in their new house. He nearly trips and falls down the stairs because of the cat getting in the way. Fueled by alcohol, he is mad with rage and grabs an axe to kill the cat. His wife stopped him and focuses his rage now on the wife. He cleaves the wife’s skull with the axe. He goes about hiding the body in the cellar. He removes bricks from the wall and reseales the corpse in it. Police arrive at his house to investigate on the disappearance of his wife. The cat also disappeared. He slept that night even with the burden of murder on his mind. The police searched every inch of the house. Finally they search the cellar. Confident that he had gotten away with the murder he commented on the sturdiness of the building. As he taps the very spot that he concealed the body an inhuman screech filled the room. The police destroy the wall only to find the cat on top of the dead wives corpse.

The black cat is quite a mix of supernatural elements and real world elements. The real world problems such as depression and alcoholism root the story in our world but is conflicted with pinches of supernatural details such as the house mysteriously set a blaze the night the narrator hung pluto, the presence of the gallows and nooses appearing in the narrators gaze and the somewhat haunting presence of pluto and the similar cat over the narrator. “In speaking of his [the cat] intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise.” – The Narrator. The cat is used a way to introduce the supernatural themes into to the text. It is commonly known in folklore that the black cat is a sign of bad luck. In this story it is displayed as something a bit more than that. He quotes that his wife mentioned that black cats are witches in disguise and something more demonic than that of bad luck. This quote can foreshadow the events that could possibly happen within the story. We could predict that if you were to meddle with the wicked you were to punished.

I noticed that the narrator almost always has a strong emotional response to the cat, negative or positive. The relationship between the cat and the narrator was healthy up until the narrator became an alcoholic. The narrator then had strong emotional response to gouging pluto’s eye out after his drunken assault. He felt remorse then soon irritation after his incident. After then hanging pluto he becomes extremely guilty. Another example is when he hides his wives body and it was found. It was a horror of sorts and gut wrenching guilt of what he had accomplished. The strong emotional swings from the narrator help build the gothic genre within the text by expressing multiple conflicting emotions that are almost theatrical in nature.

Again this book is personally hard to read. It accomplished what it set out to do. It made me feel disgust and horror from the actions of the once loving pet owner. How could he do such a thing to the most important in his life. Both his wife and his cat, both beloved, both murdered. If your looking for a gruesome and graphic short story, The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe is the way to go!

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