Thursday, September 26, 2013
Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Black Cat” is grotesque and horrifying. Although the story frightened me, I could not help but want to keep reading. Poe’s ability to capture his audience proves he fulfills the motif “sense of mystery and dread.” This is especially true when the unnamed narrator in the story walks “into the cellar” with his wife (Poe, 85). I had an uneasy feeling the narrator would kill his wife, but the question of whether or not he would caught my attention. This example of captivation, as well as others in the story, is why it is suspenseful.
Another motif this story contains is the “unreliable narrator.” I was surprised when the narrator explained, “my tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of pets…and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them” (Poe, 78). Although he truly believes his self-perception, there is incongruence between the descriptions he provides and how he actually behaves. This is evidenced by the murders of his beloved cat, Pluto, and his wife, causing him to be an unreliable narrator.
In addition to the “sense of mystery and dread” and the “unreliable narrator,” the story also fulfills that of “darkness as intrinsic to humanity.” The narrator provides a rationale for his horrendous acts by posing the question: “Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not?” (Poe, 80). He explains this as natural “longing of the soul to vex itself…to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only” (Poe, 80). This serves as a moral lesson that all humans, no matter who you are or what you do, are all on the same level. Although the narrator makes an interesting point by identifying this form of human’s inherent darkness, I do not agree that murder is an acceptable way “to violate that which is Law” (Poe, 80).
In “The Black Cat,” Poe successfully portrays these three gothic tropes, as well as others. Due to this, I understand why this is an important piece of literature. His ability to capture a reader, while maintaining suspense and a imbedding a moral lesson is why I would definitely recommend this story to a friend.
Poe, Edgar A. “The Black Cat.” American Gothic Tales. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Plume, 1996. 78-86. Print.