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Edgar Allan Poe's "the Black Cat"

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Edgar Allan Poe's "the Black Cat"

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat"

"The Black Cat," which first appeared in the United States Saturday Post (The Saturday Evening Post) on August 19, 1843, serves as a reminder for all of us. The capacity for violence and horror lies within each of us, no matter how docile and humane our dispositions might appear.

Summary of the story

For the most wild yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not--and very surely do I not dream. But tomorrow I die, and today I would unburden my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world...a series of mere household events....[T]hese events have terrified--have tortured--have destroyed me....[P]erhaps...some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own...will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects."

Tomorrow the narrator will be executed for the brutal murder of his wife. As he awaits his own death, he finds it necessary to record the events which seduced him into murder and informed the police of his crime.

From infancy, the narrator had been noted for his "docility and humanity of... disposition." His tenderness of heart made him "...the jest of [his] companions. [He] was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by [his] parents with a great variety of pets." He married at an early age, and like the narrator, his wife had a similar love for animals. They had "birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat. Pluto, the cat, was "a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree." As the narrator remembers Pluto, he also remembers something that his wife once said about all black cats being witches in disguise according to "some ancient popular notion." He never really believed she was serious about this point, and he is not quite sure why he remembers it now.

Out of all the pets, Pluto was his favorite. He "alone fed him, and he attended [him] wherever he went about the house. It was even with great difficulty that [he] could prevent [the cat] from following [him] through the streets." Their friendship lasted for several years until the man's temperament began to change. He grew, "day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others." He cursed at his wife, and eventually he "offered her personal violence." His pets began to feel the change in his disposition--a change brought about by the "Fiend Intemperance [lack of control in consuming alcohol]."

"One night, returning home, much intoxicated...[he] fancied that the cat avoided [his] presence." He grabbed Pluto, who out of fear, "inflicted a slight wound upon [his owner's] hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed [the man]." He took a penknife from his waistcoat pocket, "and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket!" When morning came, the narrator saw what he had done to the poor creature on the previous night. "The socket of the lost eye presented...a frightful appearance...." The narrator unable to deal with the results of his own actions, "soon drown in wine all memory of the deed."

"In the meantime, the cat slowly recovered. He went about the house as usual, but as might be expected, fled in extreme terror at [the narrator's] approach." At first the man was somewhat grieved by the cat's actions; however, this feeling turned into irritation. "And then came, as if to [his] final and irrevocable overthrow the spirit of PERVERSENESS.

"One morning, in cold blood, [the narrator] slipped a noose about [Pluto's] neck and hung it to the limb of a tree;--hung it with the tears streaming from [his] eyes, and with the bitterest remorse of [his] heart;--hung it because he knew that [the cat] had loved [him], and because [he] felt it had given [him] no reason of offence;--hung it because [he] knew that in so doing [he] was committing a sin--a deadly sin that would so jeopardize [his] immortal soul as to place it--if such a thing were possible--even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God."

"On the night of the day on which this most cruel deed was done, [the narrator] was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire....The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that [his] wife, a servant, and [himself], made [their] escape....[His] entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and [he] resigned himself thenceforward

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