‘The Black Cat’ by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe, Edgar Allan 1846

The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe, 1843

The magic trick:

Adding a layer of metaphor to the supernatural story on the surface

This very much seems like a story of insanity, gruesome behavior and a little of the supernatural. Standard Poe fare, all that. But he also does a very nice job of interweaving metaphor. The narrator’s downfall isn’t insanity necessarily. It’s alcoholism. The black cat is his wife. What once was a pleasant, loving relationship is antagonistic and abusive – even murderous. Maybe this story isn’t so supernatural at all, sadly. And that’s quite a trick on Poe’s part.


The selection:

I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat.

This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point — and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.

Pluto — this was the cat’s name — was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.



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