Category Archives: Short Stories
There have been a plethora of writers, musicians and the like who have suffered from insanity throughout the years. But this guy, Edgar Allan Poe, quite personally I believe that he wrote the book on it. For not only was he not writing with a full inkwell, he was also an alcoholic. In fact, a lot of times he would incorporate his insanity and his alcoholism into his stories. The Black Cat is a clear example of one of those tales.
At the beginning, the narrator of the story tells his story as he awaits his execution for the murder of his wife. It all begins with this man having a deep love for animals, especially the large black cat that was his constant companion. But one day, fueled by alcohol and madness, he cuts the eye out of the animal, severing its trust with him permanently. He eventually kills the cat by hanging it from a tree, but it doesn’t end there. Another cat appears one day with almost identical markings and missing the same eye as the previous feline. In a fit of anger over the animal, he attempts to strike it dead only to bury the axe in his wife’s skull when she intervenes. Using bricks and mortar, he hides her corpse within the walls of their home, satisfied that he has gotten away with murder. Au contraire, he forgets one little detail. It appears that he has walled the very beast he intended the axe for in the first place in the homemade tomb that he has hidden his wife. Its incessant caterwauling leads the police to her body and our narrator to the executioner.
So, what exactly is the black cat? Not the first cat in the story, mind you; that cat was the representation of the suffering caused by alcoholic rage. The suffering the drunkard causes others, not his own. No, I mean the cat that our hapless narrator unwittingly entombs with his split-headed spouse. Is it a demon? Perhaps so, it is clear that this man’s’ soul is in a torment from which he cannot escape; a torment that the cat itself appears to be the catalyst. Or is the cat a symbol of his guilt, of his desire to confess? While the story deals with madness and anger fueled by drink, it is also a study of guilt itself. Here’s a question; what if there was no cat? What if it were all a figment of the narrator’s tortured imagination? One thing I do know is that there have been a lot of guilty people throughout history for which the black cat should have yowled and meowed for.
THE MONKEY’S PAW by W.W. Jacobs
Published in 1902
Did you ever have a rabbit’s foot when you were a kid? I did. It wasn’t real, but it was supposed to bring good luck to whoever owned it. I’m sure at one time or another people carried real rabbit’s feet around. So I beg to differ about that whole good luck thing. The rabbit lost his foot, how lucky is that? It’s like Bruce Springsteen sang, ‘with very wish there comes a curse.’ That’s the whole idea behind the short story ‘The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs. A couple receives a mummified monkey’s paw that supposedly will grant its owner 3 wishes. The couple wishes for two hundred pounds so that they may pay their house loan. The next day their son is killed in a horrible industrial accident and for their compensation they receive the amount of, you guessed it, two hundred pounds.
But it doesn’t stop there. The mother obviously has not learned her lesson. For she thinks, “If this monkey’s paw can give us this money, then it can return our boy to us!” Well now, she’s right, it can return him to his loving parents. The thing is he’s messed up bad. He’s messed up in the ‘dad could only identify him by his clothing’ way. But being a husband who loves his wife and doesn’t want to see her grieving, he finds the paw and wishes their boy alive again. Then there is a knock on the door. Is it him? Is it their son? The woman rushes to the door! The husband knows that he can’t allow her to see her son in this condition and finds the paw yet again and just before she flings the door open he wishes his final wish. The knocking stops as the wife opens the door to the emptiness of the night.
It’s funny, W.W. Jacobs was known throughout his career for being a writer of humor. But can you, off the top of your head, name any other story that the man wrote? I sure as hell can’t. The Monkey’s Paw has been around for so long and has been adapted and parodied in so many ways that it has become a landmark of the horror short story. Everybody from the Simpsons to the late Warren Zevon has paid homage to this story in one way or another.
So, if I had a monkey’s paw in my pocket that would grant you three wishes. Would you take it? Think hard before you make your decision. For some reason you decide yes, then be careful what you wish for. Who knows, you might just get it.
- How did Fate play a role in ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ by W.W. Jacobs and ‘Antigone’ by Sophocles (wiki.answers.com)
- HorrorAddictsCon: Masters of Macabre (horroraddicts.wordpress.com)
- Writing horror fiction (turenn.wordpress.com)