Literary Analysis Essay Sample on The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

Published: 2021-08-02
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Carnegie Mellon University
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In the Black Cat story by Allan Poe, the writer introduces the reader to an unnamed married man in his life full of illusions. The narration is done in the first person and focuses on the mental breakdown of the character as his delusions take a course and the point of focus is his black cat named Pluto. The cat plays a significant role in the illusion the man experiences, and this has a detrimental effect on him as it leads him to be cruel to both his wife and the other pets he keeps as seen in the burning of the house. The narrative focuses on the relationship between the man and the cat and the significant role that the cat plays in the story.

Firstly, the cat in the Poes story plays a significant role in the story since it is depicted as to display symbolism from the story. The cat is named Pluto; this name represents a very role of symbolism in the story. First, the name Pluto is very allegorical and metaphorical at the same time because this is the name that is given to the god of the underworld in the Roman mythology. It placed that most people presume it as an enigmatic, mysterious, faraway cold, doomed and dark place (Freud 444) Since Plutos color was black, it can be assumed that the main character used his color in naming him. Pluto also inspires the listeners of the story since his name belongs to the god of the underworld and is connected to darkness. Since the naming of Pluto was not until the year 1930, no existing logic suggests that its meaning was related to neither any Victorian Scientific discovery nor any of the celestial bodies.

Secondly, the cat is also related to the wish of always being possessed with a feeling of engaging in evil acts. The main character started to create a borderline personality that was nearly sociopath and Schizophrenic where was Pluto seemed to be his first victim he focused upon by the main character. (Freud 545) Then as his levels of insanity developed continuously, he started experiencing hallucinations that suggested to him that the cat was around with the aim of avenging himself. (Poe 17) In the end, the truth comes out that the man may or may not have experienced possession by the avenging spirit of the cat that was Pluto; in this case, .the cat Pluto moves the evil, mystery, darkness, enigma, and coldness that surround the whole story.

Additionally, there is also the existence of a second cat in the story, this second cat looks almost exactly just like Pluto, but he does not one eye and also has a white spot. With all these real similarities the narrator insists that the second is a supernatural version of Pluto since he is more than just a cat. The second in this story in this story is used by the author to raise the audiences eyebrows. . (Poe 22) The second cat makes the audience ask themselves if Pluto is dead since the second cat has a missing eye and that theres a high possibility of Pluto still being alive but, the narrator explains that Pluto was hanged and left hanging all day and night. And after that he was embedded in the plaster wall and that there were minimal chances of Pluto surviving from this.

Thirdly, the second cat creates suspense in the story since the audience is left thinking about the possibility of existing stray cats that also suffered from missing eyes. The audience is left guessing of possible happenings such as mistreatment of the cat by its owner or the possibility having been involved in an accident or being involved in a fight with another cat. The account of the writer seems to be working against a supernatural chance and giving it too much focus might take the energy of the narrators abuse towards the creature. It is seen to be the description of the cat's voice that comes from the tomb.

The black cat just like the tell-tale heart follows the descent into madness of the narrator after the proclamation of his normal state of mind in the first paragraph of the story. The narrator also acknowledges the tales wild nature, with attempts of separating the condition of his mind from the events that happen in the plot. (Freud 545) The nature of the madness displayed by the narrator is different from that of the narrator who wrote the Tell-Tale Heart. The black cat is not involved with itself only with the nature of the narrator's mind; the narrator's mind is depicted as a self-contained state of mind. The narrator confesses an alcoholic regression that disrupts his grasp on reality and results into mood swings.

Alcohol, in this case, is like the cat, an agent from the environment that is involved with the intrusion of the dynamics of the plot. Alcohol is significantly introduced as a plot device because Edgar Allan Poe was an uncontrollable addict throughout the whole of his life. For many years his bibliographers proclaimed that his death as a result of alcohol poisoning in Baltimore. Poes death is however not determined in most of the recent bibliographies. (Gargano178). Regardless, theres surety that the deleterious effects of alcohol suffered by Poe affected him through his lifetime.

Tzvetan Todorov, an influential literary critic, came up with a concept of the fantastic in the early 1970s to talk about the horror literature, and this idea can be applied to The Black Cat.' He asserts that the fantastic explores the boundary that is presumed to be indefinite existing between the supernatural and the real. The fantastic is a category containing both irrational and rational elements. One example of the fantastic elements is the presence of second cat-with the changes in the shape of white fur and its appearance that is seen on the corpse found behind the wall. This plot intertwines challenge reality, but no complete substitution is present in logical supernatural explanation. .( Gargano175) The storys resolution is both tremendously unlikely and rationally possible; the cat could make the basement walls as its area of residence, but it is not easy to buy the idea that the cat would silently stay on the wall for an extended period or avoid being noticed by the meticulous narrator.

It is also important to realize the nature of the relationship between the man and the black cat. At the beginning of the story, the man is seen to be fond of the cat. The man was happy and docile and kind to the pets as he took care of them. The black cat was his most favorite pet, and he liked to pet it. However with the passing of time, he became aggressive, and his temper changed towards the cat and his wife. He grows more inconsiderate to the feelings of others as he becomes moodier and is easily irritated. One night he arrives home intoxicated, and the narrator says that he felt his love for Pluto fade away as he notices that the cat seems to avoid him. The man becomes bothered by this fact, and he expresses his frustration by picking the cat and frightening it. The relationship between the cat and the man takes a further fall when the frightened cat bites and wounds the man on the hands. In frustration, the man pokes out one eye of the cat. The poking out of the eye is symbolic in such a way that he is the first victim of the mans mental breakdown. (Gargano173) Finally, the narrator loses it by killing the cat, and this goes to show that this was the onset of the downfall of the man as h later burns his house and murders his wife

All in all, it is correct to say that the cat plays a significant role in the narration of the story. It is used symbolically in the narrative as it portrays the darkness in the man. From the name of the cat Pluto which is also the name of the Roman underworld god, it goes to show that the writer wanted to depict the picture of gloom and enigma to the narrator. As insanity begins to develop in the man, he takes out his frustrations on the cat, and he blames the hallucinations on the avenging spirit of the cat. The character of Pluto has the effect of coldness and darkness to the character.

Works cited

Freud, Sigmund. "Mourning and melancholia." The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 56.5 (1922): 543-545.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Black Cat. University of Virginia Library; NetLibrary, 2000.

Gargano, James W. "" The Black Cat": Perverseness Reconsidered." Texas Studies in Literature and Language 2.2 (1960): 172-178.


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