Literary Analysis Essay on The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

Published: 2021-07-19
618 words
3 pages
6 min to read
Harvey Mudd College
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The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe was published in 1843. The story is about a narrator who, together with his wife, have many pets including a big, black cat named Pluto (Poe, 2009). Edgar brings out the main events in the story as follows: The relationship between the narrator and the black cat is portrayed as mutual as both parties are fond of each other for several years. However, this relationship is challenged as the man turns into alcoholism, something that drives the cat away from him. This situation escalates one night when the narrator comes home completely drunk and tries to seize the cat which panics and bites him. In a rage, he pulls out a pen-knife and gouges out one of the cats eyes. From that moment, the cat flees any time the master approaches. The narrator is at first remorseful about his actions, but soon the emotions are succeeded by feelings of irritation and finally perverseness, which overtakes him and influences his actions onwards. He ends up hanging the cat on a tree, killing it.

Next, the narrators house catches fire, destroying everything except one wall in which he finds an imprint of a gigantic cat which reminds him of Pluto. He takes in another cat he finds in a tavern which has similar features as Pluto except for a white patch on its chest. He is soon angered and terrified by the cat and avoids it by all means. At one point he tries to kill the cat but ends up killing the wife after she tries to stop him. He hides the body on the inside of a wall. The cat has also disappeared. He feels safe for the first few days of investigation as the police finds nothing but on the last day, the cat, which was closed in with the wifes body gives him away as it gives out a loud cry causing the police to bring down the wall and retrieve the body. As he says, he had walled up the monster up within the tomb.

Gothic literature is one of the literary genres. It is often characterized by complexity and evil schemes mostly against a helpless innocent protagonist (Killeen, 2009). There are key elements evident in gothic stories and which can be found in The Black Cat. One, the atmosphere in a gothic story is one of mystery, fear, and suspense. In the Black Cat, the imprint of a gigantic cat on a single wall that survives the fire is mysterious. Also, the existence of another cat that resembles Pluto is both mysterious and suspicious. Second, there is an element of psychological emphasis with themes of emotional distress and madness. The narrator in the Black Cat has a questionable sanity. His heavy indulgence in alcoholism worsens his situation and destabilizes him emotionally. He is angered by almost everything ending up killing his pet, wife, and attempting to kill his other cat.

Additionally, this genre popularizes the notion of an anti-hero, with a flawed protagonist who possesses dark elements. In The Black Cat, the two cats can be seen as the protagonists who seem to frustrate the narrator and makes him review his actions. It is one of these cats that gives him away on the murder of his wife. Fourth, gothic stories make use of symbolism. For instance, the narrator gouging out Plutos eye can be seen to symbolize his self-inflicted partial blindness to his vision of morality. These are some of the features of a typical gothic story. Therefore, The Black Cat qualifies as a gothic story.


Killeen, J. (2009). Gothic Literature 1825-1914. University of Wales Press.

Poe, E. A. (2009). Great Short Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Springer Science & Business

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