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  • Jo-Anne Blanco

The Black Cat - Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Black Cat” uses a Celtic Cat-Sìth both as a symbol of guilt and as a nemesis to punish the guilty. The protagonist, a first person narrator, loves animals, and he and his wife have many pets, including a beautiful black cat called Pluto. The narrator is very fond of the cat. However, the narrator is an alcoholic and one night, coming home drunk, he believes Pluto is avoiding him. He tries to get hold of Pluto but the cat, afraid, bites him. Enraged, the narrator grabs Pluto, takes his penknife, and gouges out one of the cat’s eyes. From that moment on, Pluto flees in terror whenever he sees his master, and, though the narrator feels horror and remorse for his cruelty, when he gets drunk he gets enraged again, puts a noose around Pluto’s neck, and hangs the poor cat from a tree in the garden, crying all the while because he knows he is committing a sin. That night, the narrator’s house mysteriously catches fire, and he, his wife, and their servant are forced to flee. The next day the narrator returns to find engraved upon the wall the figure of a gigantic cat with a rope around its neck.

After his initial shock and terror, the narrator attributes the image on the wall to one of his neighbours throwing the dead Pluto into the burning house and the collapse of the rest of the building pressing the shape into the wall. Not long afterwards, he encounters another black cat, just like Pluto, but with the singular distinction of a white spot on its chest. He takes the cat home and, on the morning after, he realises it is missing one of its eyes, just like Pluto. Feeling terror and horror of the cat, which follows him everywhere, the narrator eventually tries to kill it with an axe, but his wife, trying to stop him, is killed by the blow instead. The narrator hides his wife’s body behind the walls in the cellar and searches for the black cat in order to kill it as well, but the cat has vanished. Four days later, the police come to the house to investigate and the narrator, confident they will find nothing, gleefully leads them to the cellar. However, as they are about to leave, terrible cries are heard from the behind the wall. The police quickly break down the wall and there they find the decaying body of the narrator’s wife. Upon her head, howling and shrieking, sits the the one-eyed cat with the white spot on its chest, delivering the narrator to the hangman.

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