THE BLACK CAT by Edgar Allan Poe

THE BLACK CAT by Edgar Allan Poe-Published in 1843

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.