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The Black Cat

Uploaded by Quest4Glory on Jul 05, 2004

When Edgar Allan Poe wrote "The Black Cat" in 1843, the word "paranoia" was not in existence. The mental illness of paranoia was not given its name until the twentieth century. What the narrator is suffering from would be called paranoia today. The definition of paranoia is psychosis marked by delusions and irrational decisions. This definition could best be described in the nineteenth century as being superstitious and believing that supernatural powers are affecting our decisions. Superstition and being taken over by the supernatural is a recurring metaphor for paranoia in Poe’s story.

At first, the narrator of the story is very caring and loves animals; being with animals is "one of [his] principal sources of pleasure" (346). The narrator’s favorite pet is his large entirely black cat named Pluto. The narrator’s wife "made frequent allusion[s] to the ancient popular notion" that black cats were associated with bad luck, evil, witches, and the devil. Poe’s protagonist does not accept this superstition. People still associate black cats with bad luck, evil, witches, and the devil, so this foreshadows that something bad will happen in the story. The cat’s name, Pluto, increases the assumption that the narrator will have bad luck. In Greek mythology, Pluto was the god of the dead and ruler of the underground. The symbolism of the cat’s name can be used to show that in some way the cat will be involved with death.

When the narrator returned home after a night of drinking and noticed that Pluto was avoiding him, he went on a search for it. Upon finding and grabbing Pluto, the narrator is bitten in the hand by the cat. Because of this bite, "the fury of a demon instantly possessed" the man, and he "knew [himself] no longer" (347). Since the black cat, associated with evil, bit the narrator, he now has evil inside of him. After this attack, the narrator first shows signs of mental illness. His saying he ‘knew himself no longer’ and that his soul has "take[n] its flight from [his] body" implies that he is not in control of his body and an outside power, the supernatural, is (347). After the attack, the narrator took out his pocketknife and stabbed the cat in the eye, an irrational decision showing the increasing severity of his illness.

One day the narrator took his cat outside and tied a rope around its neck. He...

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Uploaded by:   Quest4Glory

Date:   07/05/2004

Category:   Literature

Length:   8 pages (1,696 words)

Views:   8216

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