The Black Cat is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, published in The Saturday Evening Post on August 19th, 1843. The story follows a man who believes he has become possessed by a being that changes his personality and haunts him with violent behavior. The protagonist feels as if his actions are beyond control after committing a crime involving a black cat. The story follows the psychological deterioration of the protagonist.
The main theme is how emotional and mental states can affect physical condition, which results in an unreliable narrator that makes for a suspenseful tale. The story was composed during Poe’s time living in Philadelphia while he had been married to his wife Virginia Clemm who was 13 years old when they married. The story is thought to be inspired by the author’s own personality and life struggles that involved alcoholism and anguish. The story was found in Poe’s short fiction collection Tales by Edgar Allan Poe in 1845.
The Black Cat was a story that combined Gothic horror with a touch of The Perils Of Pauline. A narrator is an unnamed man who describes how he had two pet cats, one white and the other black. The white cat was named Pluto, and was as gentle as any creature born in this world can be. The black cat, which was born of a wild mother, showed the vicious nature of its parentage and was even more unreliable than some feisty kittens. The narrator describes how he has had many cats in his life but none have been as memorable as these two felines.
Pluto would only jump on tables or chairs when told to do so while the other cat would claw at any piece of furniture until it fell apart. The latter behavior led to the unfortunate demise of both cats one day when they were acting up by damaging a sofa too much for repair. The white cat died first after being stabbed with a carving knife that the owner wielded out of frustration then into its heart by accident. The black cat ran away, never to be seen again.
The man was filled with guilt and tried to find a way to ease the pain of his loss by creating a new pet from a local garbage heap. The result was a completely black cat which he named Pluto after its fallen brother. Pluto, The Thetas’ fraternity cat, died sometime around 10 pm on February 14th, 1999 during the time it would have been run over by a car outside of Thetas’ fraternity house at 18 Tappan Street in Ithaca, New York as reported by The Theta Weekly.
An obituary entitled “In Memory Of… stated that Pluto had been around for only three years before being killed but also listed deceased family members going back as far as Pluto’s great-grandfather The Theta Weekly, This obituary was written by a The Thetas’ brother who followed up with a column entitled “The Cat Who Came To Dinner” in which he related how The Thetas were considering replacing the lost cat by using an old fraternity tradition involving using a black cat from a building owned by The Thetas called “the Dungeon” and dropping it off at the house of somebody they hated.
They decided against this plan but still wanted to do something for their recently bereaved members, so they held an old fashioned New England funeral complete with eulogy, trays of cold cuts, and helpings of homemade ice cream while some brothers dressed up as priests and others brought out a coffin made from The Thetas’ sectional couch The Theta Weekly, The Thetas have a history of using black cats as their mascots going back to the 1800s when their fraternity was established at Union College but nobody really knows why they chose a symbol that has been associated with witchcraft and bad luck.
It is said that members of Greek organizations often choose symbols for themselves based on certain attributes they feel represent them best, so it may be possible that Thetas want people to think of them as powerful and sinister because those are qualities they find appealing The Theta Weekly. Pluto’s death would not mark the end of black cat-related rituals at The Thetas since one of their most traditions involves using a live feline as The Thetas’ master of ceremonies.
The new cat would be specially trained to stand on top of a table and hold a microphone The Theta Weekly. The thetas brought Pluto’s dead body back to the fraternity house and put it in an ice cream cooler that was left out for anyone who wanted to pay their respects The Theta Weekly, Soon after, another black cat appeared at the front door and made itself comfortable with The Theta members for about two weeks before disappearing again, unresolved as of yet is whether or not this cat will ever return or if it might try to take over as the fraternity mascot one day.
The work is said to have been inspired by a black cat that belonged to Poe’s wife. It has been recognized as one of his best works and includes an editor’s note detailing the author’s history with alcohol. The story follows a man who believes he has become an alcoholic because of his love for animals. He murders his wife out of anger but cannot remember due to being drunk at the time. The murder causes him to become more obsessed with cats, which are later found hanging around his house after people begin noticing their disappearance.
The man keeps finding himself in where he commits violence against cats and hears his wife speaking ill of him. The story ends with him finding a group of cats and the narration becomes incomprehensible. The work was thought to be heavily influenced by Poe’s alcohol consumption, which can be seen in how much he drinks throughout it. The man also has hallucinations due to intoxication, which are featured when he sees his wife after murdering her. The appearance of Pluto towards the end is said to symbolize the story’s dark side.
The Black Cat has been praised for its ability to build suspense but criticized for its unclear conclusion. It received several negative reviews upon release, where some condemned Poe for lacking sympathy towards animals while others found it disturbing or even frightening. The latter opinion was held by author Aldous Huxley who claimed that The Black Cat was the only story in The Fall of the House of Usher that came close to terror. The scholar Isaac Goldberg fixed The Black Cat as a work that primarily suggested Poe is primarily concerned with cruelty and perversity.
The author Lyle Massey argued against this perspective, calling The Black Cat “one of [Poe’s] most accomplished tales”. The protagonist of The Black Cat is an unnamed narrator who tells the story from his jail cell. The narrator has a history with alcohol and claims to have become so because he loved animals when he was young. He creates a list at the start which details all of the people he murdered throughout his life, including Pluto and his wife for making him kill them. The narrator’s wife is never named during The Black Cat and the only physical description given of her is that she had grey eyes.
The protagonist claims to have murdered his wife out of anger when he became drunk, but notes that he cannot remember anything leading up to the act due to being intoxicated at the time. The story follows him meeting his wife’s friend who wants to take care of Pluto until she can come back for him. The protagonist tells the visitor that Pluto has run away before hiding in his house so they can drink together. The cat later gets stuck in a hole behind the wall while trying to catch a rat, which causes it to scream in pain whenever its tail hits an exposed nail. The man tries offering it milk in order to calm