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The Black Cat

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Jane Mel Pabuayon

on 18 August 2013

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Transcript of The Black Cat

Character Analysis
The Second Cat
The Policemen
"The Black Cat" is a famous short story from horror-master Edgar Allan Poe. It was first printed on August 19, 1843, in the Philadelphia edition of a newspaper called the United States Saturday Post. This lurid tale reads like something right out of the headlines – bizarre headlines to be sure. Gruesome news items were just as popular in Poe's time as they are in ours.

Like many news stories, "The Black Cat" can be a downer. Stripped to bare bones, it's a story about domestic violence and brutal murder. It's the death-row confession of nameless man who destroys himself, his wife, and his pets. As is often the case with real life murderers, we can't pinpoint exactly why he went out of control. This mystery is part of what has kept "The Black Cat" in circulation for over 160 years.


Author's Biography
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston. He was the son of itinerant actors who died before Poe was three years old. He then became the ward of a Virginia couple called the Allans, whose name he added to his own. He studied at the University of Virginia, but his love of drinking and gambling made his stay there short lived. He then enlisted in the Army and served soberly from 1827 to 1829. In 1830 Poe was accepted into West Point, but he ruined his chances there as well with more drinking. In 1836 he married his cousin, thirteen year old Virginia Clemm, and tried to support her by writing and editing. He was editor of the Richmond Southern Literary Messenger, as well as a few others, and published his own magazine for a while called The Stylus. He won many literary prized early in his career, but he made little money, and
his alcoholism cost him many jobs in journalism.
His wife died in 1847, and he then became engaged to a wealthy widow. In 1849, while traveling to meet the widow, he met some friends and went out drinking with them.
He was later found unconscious in a Baltimore street and died a few days later.
This unnamed character is an abusive bully and a murderer. He made home a living hell for his wife, pets, and himself. He's writing to us from his prison cell, on the eve of his scheduled death by hanging. In addition to the details of his heinous crimes, he reveals his psychological transformation from nice-guy to villain. He tells us that around the time he murdered his wife, all "good" had been driven from his personality.
According to Marie Bonaparte, Poe's biographer, the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe are under psychoanalytical interpretation. Madame Bonaparte conducted Freudian inquiry into Poe’s lifelong fixation on women as mother surrogates and the specific effects of this obsession on his fiction and poetry. Bonaparte believed that Poe was impotent, that his marriage to his cousin Virginia Clemm was never consummated, and that Poe’s writings furnish overwhelming evidence of his sexual maladjustments.
Literary Analysis
by Edgar Allan Poe
EDGAR ALLAN POE (1809 - 1849)
Edgar Allan Poe was a household name to American readers. His use of terror and the supernatural in his fiction made him very popular with them. His writing, however, used little of the American experience, but relied heavily on the Gothic techniques and German romanticism. While his short fiction was loved in the United States, his poetry was more successful overseas, especially in France. His critical essays have had a profound effect on literature as well, especially in the short story.
Narrator's Wife
She is kind, loyal, and even heroic at the end. She is a highly sympathetic character, in her own right. The fact that the narrator abuses her, and her beloved pets, makes her even more sympathetic, and makes us think that the man is a complete bad guy.

She is the one who bought "the birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey" and Pluto. Her love for animals seems to increase throughout the story. She even gives her life for the second cat at the end.
Pluto is fine specimen of a cat. All black, large, fuzzy, and "and sagacious to an astonishing degree”.

Over the years Pluto moves from a pampered pet to an abused beast. He is blinded and ultimately murdered by his owner.

Pluto symbolized as a murdered slave, a child and as an art.
The second black cat looks almost exactly like Pluto. He's big, black, and missing an eye. The only difference is the white spot. The spot starts off innocently enough, but then grows into an image of the gallows, if the narrator can be believed.
These policemen are generic characters, without defining characteristics, other than the fact that they are policeman, like in the end of “The Tell Tale Heart”. They drive the action by showing up and investigating.

In some ways the policemen represent the limits of legal justice. The police are limited in what they can do. Even if they were afraid that the man would kill his wife, they can't do anything about it until the man actually does the deed.
1. Narrator’s Jail Cell
The narrator writes from a space of confinement, and detailing the events that led him to prison is one of the few freedoms he has left. This tension between freedom and confinement is repeated throughout the story, and is particularly intense when we look at some other aspects of the setting
2. Narrator’s Roomy and Fancy House
We learn that he and his wife were wealthy people, before they lost everything in the fire.
3. Cramped and Decrepit Quarters of the Second House
through the narrator's brief description, we'll know that the new house is "old" and not what he and his wife are used to.
4. The Bedroom Wall
5. The Cellar
The setting in "The Black Cat" moves from less confining spaces to more confining spaces, reflecting the increased psychological confinement the narrator describes, and taping into our deepest fears concerning home and home life.
6. Fresh Garden
For Pluto, the fresh garden in which he is meant to frolic is turned into a death chamber.
1. “The Black Cat” main character had a problem with alcohol and when he let it take over him he did harmful things. For example, the alcohol caused him to kill his cat and even his wife. Perverseness took over his personality at times and he took his anger out on other things.
In “The Black Cat”, for example, for Bonaparte reads the hanged cat not as general symbol progressive psychosis but as a specific symbol of the penis of the impotent Poe. Never willing to separate Poe the artist from the characters and episodes of his fiction, she concluded from her case studies that Poe was psychotically disturbed and maternally ambivalent as well as deeply guilty over his sexual inadequacy. She also opened up a main vein of Poe’s criticism that would interpret his works through the lens of Freudian Psycho biography.
Frank, Frederick S & Magistrale, Anthony. The Poe Encyclopedia. Westport,USA.: Greenwood Publishing Group Inc., 1997
Retrieved - August 04, 2013 from

Retrieved – August 04, 2013 from

Retrieved – August 05, 2013 from

Retrieved – August 08, 2013 from

it holds a raised image of a "gigantic cat". This moment foreshadows the second cat's live-burial in the second house, and also introduces the motif of walls into the story.
Pabuayon, Jane Mel M.
De Leon, Marven Jayzel B
Decena, Dominic M.
Agustin, Kyll Vinson G.
Barit, Mc Bryan E.

The man's actions reveal clue of his character. He is
, even to the point of murder. He describes a series of actions that mark his descent into evil. The way he writes and thinks are difficult enough, but the things he claims to have done (i.e., murder his wife and his cat) characterize him as a
, who happens to be an
abusive and cowardly person.
The man's actions also characterize the other characters as victims.
The man's wife is characterized, until the end, by her seeming lack of action. She is described as
dangerously passive
. At the end of the story, this changes. She actively thwarts the murder of the second cat. In fact, she dies defending him. This characterizes her as a
courageous hero.
Since the man and his wife aren't described, this one applies only to Pluto and the second cat. The fact that both cats are missing an eye makes them
hugely sympathetic characters.
Even if readers aren't fond of cats, they will likely feel sorry for cats with missing eyes.
"My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events."
"My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill-used them."
"…through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance [I] had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse."
"It was with great difficulty that my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration."
"… it was now, I say, the image of a hideous -- of a ghastly thing -- of the GALLOWS! -- oh, mournful and terrible engine of horror and of crime -- of agony and death!"
"I knew myself no longer."
Initial Situation
Death Row
The first thing we learn is that the nameless narrator is going to die the next day, and that he wants to write his story, which will be ugly.
A Drinking Problem
The conflict begins to unfold when the man describes the way his personality changed for the worse when he started drinking heavily, several years after Pluto became his pet.
Pluto is Murdered
When the narrator turns on Pluto, he doesn't do it halfway. First he cuts the cat's eye out, and then he hangs him from the tree in his garden – leaving the body there when he goes to sleep. This definitely complicates things for the narrator.
Somehow, when the narrator goes to sleep that night (after murdering Pluto in the morning) his house catches on fire.
The Cat Comes Back
the arrival of the second cat marks the halfway point in this story. It is suspenseful precisely because we aren't sure what the second cat is. If the narrator can be believed, the cat is not only missing an eye, like Pluto, but also grows an image of a gallows on his chest (a "gallows" is an apparatus used for hanging people). The cat also seriously gets on the narrator's nerves.
The Perfect Crime
During that fateful trip to the cellar of the family's new residence (an "old building") the narrator tries to kill the cat with his axe. When his wife intervenes, the axe is turned on her. The narrator thinks he's successfully hidden the body and bluffed the cops. He isn't upset about killing his wife, and is happy he has managed to make the cat run away.
The Cat Come Back, Part 2
In the conclusion, the cat reappears, and the murder is discovered. The man seems convinced that the cat exposed him on purpose.
Family Drama, Horror or Gothic Fiction, Southern Gothic, Psychological Thriller and Suspense
Urgent, Ashamed, Anguished, Dramatic, Flashy, Mocking…
"I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity."
Fancy and Cryptic
Full transcript