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Written by Timothy Sexton
The narrator is another of Poe’s unnamed and unreliable men driven to madness. All we really know about him—if his word can be trusted, that is—is that he has enjoyed a lifetime love of animals and that the animals have reciprocated this love. The narrator does make clear what it is about animals that places them on such a higher level of love and respect: he particularly admires their loyalty and perception. In other words, if an animals remains loyal to you, you must be good people. Which, by definition, should serve to bring into question the character of any person whose pet begins to exhibit disloyal behavior. Event soon prove that he may just be rather perceptive himself for a human being.
The Narrator's Wife
Not much information is provided about the narrator’s wife other than that she shares his love of animals. We do learn that that she might be more superstitious than him since she is fond of mentioning the belief that cats and witches are inextricably linked to the point where you can’t really have one without probably also having the other. Of course, this information arrives courtesy of a narrator not entirely trustworthy and even he is careful to assert that just because she mentions this superstition doesn’t necessarily mean she believes. Ultimately, it is the narrator who seems to possess a deeper belief in supernatural explanations for what do not appear to be particularly unexplainable occurrences. One thing that is for certain: the wife is willing to intrude on behalf animals when in danger, even if that danger is coming from husband.
Pluto is the black cat that joins the goldfish, rabbit, dog, birds and monkey in the menagerie of pets that the narrator and his wife invite into their little slice of domestic bliss upon marriage. Perhaps he was being truthful about his wife’s superstitious beliefs since Pluto actually becomes more his pet than hers. The close bond between cat and owner even manages to remain from the abusive effects of alcohol that affects his relationship with his other pets and their co-owner. The passage of time and the rise of addiction tolerance eventually takes its toll, however, resulting in Pluto first losing and eye at the narrator’s hand before losing his life at the end of a noose.
Following rather quickly upon the death of Pluto and an unexplained fire which destroys the narrator’s home, a second black cat enters the narrative. Although never actually referred to as White Heart, in fact, remaining as nameless as the narrator, this cat is absolutely identical to Pluto right down to having only one eye but for one distinguishing difference: a patch of white fur covering almost her entire breast. The lack of an actual name indicates the emotional connection between it and the superstitious wife and alcoholic husband who claims to be such an animal lover: despite a seemingly desire by the cat to become best friends, the narrator is utterly repulsed to the eventual point of attempted murder.
The police arrive to investigate the disappearance of the narrator's wife and serve the plot's function of needing somebody for the person who thinks they have committed the perfect murder to show off to. If only the narrator had not been gripped by hubris, he would never have unwittingly exposed himself as a murderer by trying to prove to himself just how clever he was in front of the worst possible audience at the worst possible time.
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I think that the purpose of the first paragraph is to convey to the reader that the narrator is unreliable. That the narrator is unreliable is clear from the start when he protests a bit too robustly that he is not mad. That he is to be reckoned...