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Symbol of the Cat in the Story “Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe

The works of Edgar Allan Poe are famous for their gothic style, the penchant for depression and melancholy, as well as sinister motives of imminent death and evil fate. So, in the “Black Cat,” the story of alcoholism, madness, and movement towards destruction unfolds. The cat is the main symbol of the whole story, which the narrator speaks of as “the hideous beast whose craft has seduced me into murder” (Poe 14). The essay examines the importance of the cat’s name as the central element of the story, the personification of fate in his face. The paper also argues that the cat additionally symbolizes the protagonist’s guilt.

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It is a well-known fact that a black cat in the superstitions of many people portends some misfortune. Even the narrator’s wife foreshadows something evil saying that “all black cats as witches in disguise” (Poe 3). The name of the main character’s cat is Pluto, which adds a more sinister color to his image. In his stories, Poe only named significant characters. Pluto is one of the names of the god of the underworld and the dead, references to which can be seen in the story many times. The character says that Pluto was his “favorite pet and playmate” (Poe 4). This symbolizes his deeply depressed condition. The cat is closely related to the emotional state of the narrator.

With the deterioration of the disposition, the character’s craving for violence and cruelty also occurs. From that moment on, he often calls the cat a “beast,” which may indicate his fear. The narrator says that he “deliberately cuts one of its eyes from the socket!” (Poe 5). This can be interpreted in different ways. First of all, he might want to blind the cat not to show his worsening condition to the closest being. It is also possible that the cat’s eye plays the role of a mirror, which the character does not want to look into, because it hurts him to look at his destructive metamorphosis. With the cat’s blinding, the narrator launches a chain of tragic events leading to his death.

Fate and omens are the central themes of the story. The narrator is “above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and atrocity” (Poe 6). Still, gradually he gets the feeling of “absolute dread of the beast” (Poe 9). Thus, the cat personifies the evil fate that pursues and oppresses the character. Pluto always reminds the narrator of his deed, not letting him calm down. The one-eyed cat can also represent an allusion to the Scandinavian god Odin. Like Odin, Pluton could sacrifice his eye in exchange for the dead’s wisdom, for inner sight. Thus, the cat is presented as a manifestation of the character’s madness, which he does not want to admit.

Another theme of the work is the theme of home and family. The cat can also be seen here as a symbol of an evil omen and madness. On the wall of a destroyed narrator’s house, there was the figure of a gigantic cat “as if graven in bas-relief upon the white surface” (Poe 7). The cat was depicted with a noose around its neck, which indicates Pluto. Thus, indicating the family and home that the narrator had destroyed under the influence of an unfortunate fate. As soon as the hero has done a terrible deed by hanging his cat, the gallows will run like a red thread through the story, the meeting also in the image of Pluto’s double.

The black cat’s double appears to be a superstitious version. It looks like Pluto, but only with “the image of a hideous – of a ghastly thing – of the Gallow!” (Poe 10). The cat returned to pursue the owner again, but only with a prominent reminder of his deed now. The new Pluto lacks an eye; he seems to be evidence of everything the narrator has done to him. It is noteworthy that after the murder of the wife, the cat disappears, and the character says that his “happiness was supreme!” (Poe 13). Finally, he was able to get rid of the feeling of guilt in the face of the cat that dominated him and can feel free for a while.

In the end, the cat betrays its owner’s terrible crime. It is possible that the cat personifies not evil circumstances and fate, but the character himself, who cannot cope with the feeling of guilt. Either way, Pluto plays a central role in the story as a symbol of a sinister outcome and death. Poe endowed him with all the qualities of a frightening inevitability to which the character rushes and cannot do anything about it. Fate, however, is not the most terrible for the character, because he denies his mutilation, the deterioration of his disposition. As a result, he goes mad under the weight of his guilt, and most importantly, a constant reminder of his actions.

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Work Cited

Poe, Edgar. Black Cat. Elegant books, 1843. www.ibiblio.org/ebooks/Poe/Black_Cat.pdf

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StudyCorgi. (2022, May 15). Symbol of the Cat in the Story “Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/symbol-of-the-cat-in-the-story-black-cat-by-edgar-allan-poe/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, May 15). Symbol of the Cat in the Story “Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe. https://studycorgi.com/symbol-of-the-cat-in-the-story-black-cat-by-edgar-allan-poe/

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StudyCorgi. "Symbol of the Cat in the Story “Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe." May 15, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/symbol-of-the-cat-in-the-story-black-cat-by-edgar-allan-poe/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Symbol of the Cat in the Story “Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe." May 15, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/symbol-of-the-cat-in-the-story-black-cat-by-edgar-allan-poe/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Symbol of the Cat in the Story “Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe'. 15 May.

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