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The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

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The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

"The Black Cat" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It was first published in the August 19, 1843 edition of The Saturday Evening Post. It is a study of the psychology of guilt, often paired in analysis with Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."[1] In both, a murderer carefully conceals his crime and believes himself unassailable, but eventually breaks down and reveals himself, impelled by a nagging reminder of his guilt. "The Black Cat" is the less well known of the two, probably because it is longer and less tight as a narrative. However, its spaciousness allows a more extensive exploration of the themes of violence, hatred, and guilt, as well as a more mystical, mysterious setting and a chilling end.

The story opens in a style typical of Poe’s works. An unnamed narrator claims to be perfectly sane and logical, yet the manner of his writing and the story he goes on to relate both seem to prove otherwise. As in many of his stories told in first-hand narrative, Poe uses an unreliable narrator.

The narrator tells us that from an early age, he has loved animals. He and his wife have many pets, including a large black cat named Pluto. This cat is especially fond of the narrator and vice versa. Their mutual friendship lasts for several years, until the narrator becomes an alcoholic. One night, after coming home intoxicated, he wishes the cat out of his presence, and tries to remove him physically, and violently. The cat, in panic, then bites the narrator, and in a fit of rage, he seizes the animal, pulls a pen-knife from his pocket, and deliberately gouges out the cat’s eye.

From that moment onward, the cat (understandably) flees in terror at his master’s approach. At first, the narrator is remorseful and regrets his cruelty. "But this feeling soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS." He takes the cat out in the garden one morning and hangs it from a tree, where it dies. That very night, his house mysteriously catches on fire forcing the narrator, his wife and their servant to flee.

The next day, the narrator returns to the ruins of his home to find, imprinted on the single wall that survived the fire, the figure of a gigantic cat, hanging by its neck from a rope.

At first, this image

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