The Black Cat, Written by Edgar Allan Poe

My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified — have tortured — have destroyed me.” – Edgar Allan Poe

The Black Cat, a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe. Published in August 1843. This Horrific story follows a man and his ‘love’ for his cat Pluto. Which then turns so hatred. To then want to destroy that cat. After hanging Pluto, his house burns down. He moves to a new house to then find another cat very similar to Pluto, then eventually his evil and old ways kick in to then fin himself throwing an axe at this cat.

The first gothic element I have chosen to focus on through this response is The Gothic Protagonist. This element involves a number of qualities that make up the gothic protagonist itself. In this short story, I believe Edgar Allan Poe involves a use of this element in the narrator of the story. Another gothic element I have chosen to focus on through this response is the common tones and moods that are (I believe) created when reading this text.

The gothic protagonist could be made up from a few different things. For this short story I feel that Edgar Allan Poe mostly focused on his narrators contrasting qualities, and him also being driven by his own emotions rather than logic. Both of these distinct ideas can make up a gothic protagonist. At the very beginning of the short story we soon see how the narrator feels about his animals, as seen in the following quote,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 indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them.” I believe this quote shows the audience purposefully that this man really did care about his own animals. Which creates a contradiction for the narrator when continuing to read. This can be seen in the following quote, One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree; — hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; — hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offence; — hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin — a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it — if such a thing were possible — even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.” With these two quotes in contradiction of each other it can show two different qualities in the narrator. The first quote shows that this character is very, passionate and caring for his animals, while the second quote shows a parallel to this. He hangs his own cat (Pluto) and can’t even give a proper reason as to why he did. The actions described from the two quotes about game me this disgusted and extremely uncomfortable feeling. To me it seems so inhumane, and in the way it’s described, and how it all sounded so peaceful in the beginning of the story.

Another distinct idea I picked out that I believe Edgar Allan Poe used to create his gothic protagonist; the narrator, is how the narrator is driven by his own emotions rather than logic. This can be shown in the following quote, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him…  The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer…  I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.” This quote shows a huge drive of angry emotions from the narrator. With these emotions of anger he takes them out on his ‘beloved’ cat Pluto. Instead of stopping and thinking about what his action on Pluto will do, he uses this fuel and drives it right into poor Pluto.

The way that Edgar Allan Poe uses this element, with the contrasting qualities and being driven by emotions rather than logic, in his narrator, posed a very uncomfortable feeling for me. This was mostly because of the narrators contrasting behaviours towards the cat. I believe his actions to be a very cruel and inhumane thing to do. From the first quote I picked out I felt that I related to the narrator in some ways, as I love my pets too. Then moving into my second and third quote that I picked, made me feel completely repelled as to how he could not only hurt an animal in such a way but also the way he killed it. The use of the pen knife was such a vicious act, and to follow on to the next day with having no remorse, and then kill the cat in such a horrific way.

My second element is common tones and moods. Tone is the attitude or view given from the narrator of the story, in this case, short story. Mood is what an audience feels when reading, hearing or watching a piece of text. Throughout the text Edgar Allan Poe has the narrator share his feelings, first they were feelings of happiness and tenderness for his animals. It is soon showed that he has this sort of evil taking over him and those nice feelings turn to anger and hatred. This can firstly be seen in the following quote.Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character — through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance — had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others.”  From this quote I found that Edgar Allan Poe has a use of tone from the narrator. As he talks about a growing ‘irritableness’ , like a growing anger. He also goes to say he hs no longer got consideration of others.

Further into the story once he has found this other cat; which is very similar to Pluto, his evilness/hatred comes back. The way Edgar Allan Poe describes his actions can be very shocking for the reader. The cat followed me down the steep stairs, and, nearly throwing me headlong, exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an axe, and forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal which, of course, would have proved instantly fatal had it descended as I wished. But this blow was arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded, by the interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan.”  This quote; I believe, can show the use of ‘mood’. With the words Edgar Allan Poe uses to describe the narrators behaviour and actions towards that cat, can give an insight to the audience. This can make them feel many different things, for me i felt completely and utterly repelled by these unjustified an extremely inhumane actions. Yet these aren’t true events and this most likely hasn’t happened, the way that Edgar Allan Poe describes them can make the audience still feel horrified. 

With Edgar Allan Poe’s use of this element; tone and mood, it made me feel all these things of which gothic fiction is meant to make you feel. Disgust, horror, dislike, loathing… the list could go on. With the first quote I picked, and the tone created made me feel more of a relation to the narrator. Not to the level he was at but with my own experiences there are times where frustration grows on you and you become less tolerable. I think that is why authors of gothic fiction have a use of tone in their characters. It can give the reader a chance to relate to the character, when in doing this you become more connected and you want to follow what happens and it then makes their horrible actions more horrific for the reader. This could be shown in the second quote I picked, which was the use of mood. This was the part of the short story that I was completely horrified by. Thinking how could someone throw an axe a cat, a poor wee cat, who had done nothing wrong and was looking only for his affection. The way Edgar Allan Poe described it gave thrilling and shocking feeling.

The Black Cat, by Edgar Allan Poe is really a horrifying story. The way that he could connect to the audience, through describing a made up scenario of a crazy mans battle with good and evil, and his horrible actions taken on two cats. I think having cats as the victim can become something more relatable to an audience, and by doing so Edgar Allan Poe used it to his advantage. For a piece of gothic fiction, I believe it to be a very nice piece as the author definitely would have; and in my personal view, succeeded in horrifying people. Although I will say I did not enjoy the piece of text. I believe Edgar Allan Poe had a great use and variety of different gothic elements, he may have even applied some that I have not mentioned. The variety and use of words to describe these things made a big impact of how I read the text, making some pieces harder to understand but once I did it made it make all the more sense. The detail used made it even more shocking to me. Overall, I believe Edgar Allan Poe had a very good use of the elements described, and I feel out of the possible elements those were the ones that stuck out to me, making it even the more horrifying.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Hi Samantha,

    Some good quotes in here. Make sure they are an appropriate length. At the moment, there are some very long ones.

    Also look to increase your personal response- how do the things in the text make you think, react, feel etc. Do you think this was the intention of the author? Why/why not?

    Mrs. P


Respond now!