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Written by Sana Kapur, Alison Blanton
Man’s descent into insanity
In "The Black Cat," the narrator was aware that his thoughts and actions were transforming into a downward spiral. He was aware of his increased irritability, his disregard of the feelings of others and the unreasonable violent actions he carried out towards his wife. He was even aware that his favorite pet and playmate, Pluto, was falling victim to the ill-effects brought by alcoholism onto the narrator.
The ill-effects of alcoholism
In this story, the narrator describes to the readers the effects of the “Fiend Intemperance”. It was due to the increased intake of alcohol that the narrator experienced a radical alteration-for the worse. He became more irritable, cared little for the feelings of others and often used intemperate language with his wife, often including violent acts towards her as well. He maltreated the rabbits, the dogs, the monkey and even his favorite pet, Pluto.
Love for animals
The theme of man’s love for animals is communicated in the first few paragraphs of the story. The narrator described how he spent his time with animals, cherishing and loving them. He gave an account of the pets he had- birds, goldfish, rabbits, a fine dog, a monkey and a cat. Out of all the pets, the narrator loved his cat, Pluto, the most.
The theme of supernatural elements is clearly shown in this story. The title “The Black Cat” itself suggests supernatural elements, for there are various superstitions regarding the bad luck and omen that a black cat brings. In this story, the narrator kills his pet, Pluto, a black cat, by hanging him from a tree branch. After the murder of the black cat, bad luck follows the narrator. His house gets burnt, and only one wall remains standing, and this wall has an impression of the black cat with a rope about the animal’s neck was made onto it. A few days later, another black cat appeared in front of the narrator. This cat looked exactly like Pluto, except it had a patch of white fur at the bosom, which later represented the ‘gallows’. In the end, the narrator killed his wife and hid her in the cellar. When the police came to search his house, a loud noise came from the cellar. The cellar walls fell and the wife’s dead body was revealed, and sitting on her head, the black cat. The events that followed the hanging of Pluto can be attributed to supernatural explanations, for it is a common belief that a black cat brings bad luck. Thus, it portrays the theme of supernatural belief.
The narrator's guilt is what brings the black cat to haunt him. The cat represents his guilt and as the narrator becomes more guilty, the cat becomes more realistic. For example, the only time the cat is heard is when the police are searching the narrator's house and his guilt and fear finally push him into madness. Poe is trying to show that guilt is a key factor in man's decent to madness and also a vital part of what keeps us human.
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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...