The Black Cat





The Black Cat


The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe is a short story based on a personal account of the author towards his disastrous end. The narrator gives his growing up history in which, he loved and reared animals and grew to maintain the same even when married. His fondness with a black cat called Pluto signified a change in his mentality as he faced the demons of alcohol use and drugs. He at one point gouged the eye of the cat and later hanged the cat on a tree. After his house was razed by a fire, he escaped with his wife unhurt. Later, they obtain another cat, with marked resemblance to the older one. As he tried retaliating on the cat, he was stopped by his wife. In return, he murdered her and placed the body behind the rocks of the walls. Fate enabled investigations to be conducted and the cat reveled where the corpse was. The stylistic devices and theme representation of The Black Cat are effective in the transformation of the narrator’s character.


The author uses ambiguity in development of the story’s plot. From the beginning of the narration, the author does not assure the reader on belief towards the natural causes or effects described within the literature. He states that perhaps some form of calm, intellect and to a lesser extent, the logical view of the occurrences cannot be easily understood. The tense use in reference to the hindsight enable the reader to adjudge the events based on interpretation. Ambiguity enables the author capture the mindset of the reader since it is not clear to capture the exact happenings and decipher the meaning. The reader is left with the function of making logical conclusions on his character and behavior.

            Superstition is a common feature of the literature delivery. The author’s wife believes in the same form of superstition and contemplates on the popular notion. At the time of obtaining Pluto, the reference to the cat’s appearance held specific meaning in regards to belief. Pluto was black in color and its size was imposing. According to the author’s wife, it symbolized assumption of evil through representation of a witch or Satan. At the initial stage, the author did not take the superstitious belief to consideration, although it had a bearing in his mind during the encounters with it. Despite the affection he had for the cat, the superstitious undertone helped in consolidating a transformation on how he viewed it later.

            Foreshadowing in the narrative is an exemplary tool used to denote of the future happenings. In the story, the author used figurative words like one day, one time, and one morning. At the initial stage of plot development, the author prophetically stated that he would offer his wife violence. He tries to side step the allusion by referring to the incidents as down to ordinary succession due to natural effects. It is in this instance that the reader can later observe the source of the wife’s death. The anger vented towards the cat almost made him strike it to death. In return, as his wife held him back, he channeled his frustration and resentment of the cat towards his wife and murdered her in the process.

            One of the recurrent themes in the story is based on guilt. The characters in the narration have internal conflicts as enhanced by the author’s creation of an alter ego as means of obtaining an opposite personality. From a young and tender upbringing, the narrator makes the reader aware of his love for animals, especially the cat. He channeled his precious moments according to the time spent with the animal. Later on, he changes to a serious cat killer as he managed to end Pluto’s life. His guilt conscience is tested when a reincarnation of Pluto, through the second cat, is brought into the picture. Despite trying to forget his murder of Pluto, he is overwhelmed by the second cat leading to his wife’s death.

            The motif of perverseness is an efficient tool used by the author to describe his inhuman antithesis. Animals are usually represented as lacking human reason in the mannerisms of their actions even leading to the death of fellow ones. In the story, the irrational aspect of the author is used against the rational of the animals to depict his intended motif. In the first death of Pluto, the loss of reason led him to act violently to the animal and its subsequent death. In the events leading to the murder of his wife, the cunning behavior of the second cat was used as means to conceal the heinous act by the author.  

            Imagery and symbolism are stylistic devices used by the narrator, to point at his distorted view owing to his state of mind. The image of a black cat was used as a symbolism feature in order to highlight the negative aspects of his nature. The cat was part of the family with his wife in order to show blemish. Symbolism on the other hand was used by the author I revealing his suppressed guilt. For example, the reference to the fur and the gallows’ later appearance are strategically used to conceal the narrator’s nature of quick temper and pretence. He loved animals but had a  dark side while in the contrary, he was comfortable at seeing his wife join him in keeping animals yet was first to strike them.

            Transformation of the narrator’s character in the story helps the reader understand his nature and that of effect from alcohol. Through the frequent use of alcohol, the calm and affectionate narrator turns into a vicious character that ends up killing his wife as well as their cat. The transformation is in part psychological as he is not able to control his mental ability and physical reaction to situations since he has become an alcoholic. Physical transformation is also enabled through the burning of his house, which makes him and the wife start afresh with humility. It is in this form that sanity begins to come back to him only to be diverted again by his evil nature and effect of alcohol use.


The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe is a short story that uses stylistic devices and theme representation to enhance the narrator’s transformation from his past into an evil character. The common use of imager, symbolism, foreshadowing, reflection, and motifs of pervasiveness help in development of the plot. The narrator talks of initial love for animals and later leads to killing of his first cat before murdering his own wife. The eventual twist is availed when investigators at his house have to find the corpse of the wife. Ironically, the second cat makes a sound and alerts the team on the whereabouts of his wife.

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