The Black Cat

Damn Cat: The Blasphemous Spirituality of Poe's The Black Cat College

In the tradition story-telling, few concepts are as popular as supernatural intervention into human life. These interventions typically feature a very familiar, nearly house-hold collection of descriptive forms: angels, demons, invisible kinetic forces, and even nature itself are all used as representations of divinity, and unknowable power. It is the mark of a true master to escape from this gallery of cliché and craft details which make a unique statement; in Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Black Cat, so much is accomplished in chilling, gruesome style. For Poe, the Christian concept of God is irrelevant, and he writes from a position of his own morality, in which there is no guardian, no benevolent light to guide souls from the path of darkness. There is only unstoppable, disembodied retribution, as the abuses of the narrator are punished not spiritually, in the next life, but in the present, with shocking violence. Following original sin, in which the narrator slices out one of his beloved cat Pluto’s eyes with a pocket knife in repayment of “a slight wound upon the hand” (Poe 30), madness rapidly begets madness, as patterns of destruction invert upon the narrator’s life and psyche. The lack of a clear antagonist in the...

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