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Reasoning and Analysis of the Essay Black Cat

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In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat,” readers are exposed to a story told by an alcoholic man who becomes increasing violent throughout the story. The narrator is originally a tender and affectionate man, with a love for animals. “My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals . . . and was never so happy as when feeding and caressing them” (Poe 137-143). As the story progressed, so did his alcoholism and violence. Alcohol soon consumed his life. His love and kindness vanishes as he becomes a cruel and evil man who inflicts pain on those who he used to love. His increasing alcoholism and cruel actions toward his beloved cat, Pluto, lead to feelings of guilt for his addiction. In The Black Cat, Poe uses the narrator’s actions of killing Pluto, resenting a second black cat, and viciously murdering his wife to present the significant changes the narrator underwent as he becomes increasingly violent throughout the story.

After marrying, him and his wife procured many pets. Of these, the narrator was marveled by one pet in particular, his cat, Pluto. Pluto was his favorite pet, “this latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree.” (Poe 137-143) We observe how the narrator cares deeply for his companion, Pluto. However, as the years passed, the narrator grew more irritable and violent. His pets received the worst of it as his temperament changed. They were neglected and ill-treated as he worsened. Pluto was the only exception, as the narrator tried to restrain himself from doing the same to his beloved cat, but not for long. The narrator returned home one night, heavily intoxicated, and found that Pluto was avoiding him. He proceeded to pick up the cat, but it bit him in fear. Then we discover how drastic of a change the narrator underwent, “I took from my waistcoat-pocket a penknife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.” (Poe 137-143) His violent act towards Pluto left him full of guilt and remorse. However, the guilt quickly grew into resentment and irritation, as the cat’s fear was a constant reminder of his actions. The narrator then eliminates the source of the feelings and hangs Pluto from a tree. The killing of his beloved friend, Pluto, revels the beginning of the narrator’s fall into insanity (“The Horror of the Power of Guilt in The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe”).

After the incident with Pluto, the narrator spent months being haunted by his actions. Once he begins to recover from his descent into madness, he comes upon a second black cat. This cat was very similar to Pluto, except it had a large white spot on its chest. He was delighted with this cat, as it purred and rubbed against his hand. The cat followed him and claimed his home to be with the narrator. Not long after, he began to dislike the cat, “By slow degrees these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I avoided the creature; a certain sense of shame, and the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty, preventing me from physically abusing it” (Poe 137-143). The morning after bringing the cat home, he realizes that this cat also lacked an eye, like Pluto. This discovery only added to his hatred for the creature. The narrator’s humanity is beginning to escape him again, as he reveals that he is aware his actions towards Pluto were cruel, yet he took in another cat.

The final demise of the narrator’s sanity is presented at the end of the story. He confesses that he dreads being near the cat and has nothing but pure hatred for it. As he continued to avoid the creature, it began to favor him. The narrator then says he wishes to “destroy it with a blow,” which shows us he is starting to spiral downward once again (Poe 137-143). The desire to destroy the cat only grew, until it was unbearable. While assisting his wife with household chores in the cellar one day, the cat followed him down the stairs and nearly tripped him. The narrator was infuriated and lifted an axe to strike the animal, which was stopped by his wife. The narrator’s true thoughts and mindset are then revealed, “Goaded by the interference into a rage more than demonical, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot without a groan” (Poe 137-143). This line directly shows that the narrator has lost all of his sanity and has drastically changed throughout the story. After he has murdered his wife, he prepared to conceal the body without being observed. He decided upon hiding the corpse behind the cellar walls.

Carefully and precisely, the man removed removed the bricks, inserted the body, and replaced them, so the wall would not present any appearance of being disturbed. On the fourth day after the task, the police arrived to execute a meticulous investigation. Once again, we observe the coldness of the narrator, as he wrote, “I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that of one who slumbers in innocence” (Poe 137-143). It is obvious that he feels no remorse of his act. As the police prepare to leave, the narrator is invigorated by the feeling of triumph, as he begins to boast of his task. “‘I may say an excellently well-constructed house. These walls-are you going, gentlemen?-these walls are solidly put together’; and here, through the mere frenzy of bravado, I rapped heavily with a cane which I held in my hand, upon that very portion of the brick-work behind which I stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom” (Poe 137-143). It is bestowed upon the readers that he not only lacks any feelings of remorse, but he is truly proud of his work.

The narrator drastically changes over the course of this disturbing, short story. We first see the change begin as he grows disgusted with Pluto, scoops out his eye, and hangs him from a tree. As the story goes on, we again see the violence and insanity showing through as he describes his feelings towards the second cat. His final fall into madness is evident as he buries an axe into his wife’s head, hides her corpse in a wall, and is gratified with his seamless work doing so. The once kind and affectionate man transformed into a cruel, deranged alcoholic throughout this story.

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