The Black Cat - Detailed Summary Character Analysis Themes Symbolism Imagery Allegory Questions

4 Ocak 2014 Cumartesi

The Black Cat - Edgar Allan Poe

From his prison cell, the unnamed narrator is writing the story of how everything in his life fell apart. Since he will die the next day, he wants to set the record straight, and tells us the story of his life…
From the day he is born, he is mild and kind. He loves animals and has lots of them. As he gets older up these qualities grow stronger. Taking care of his pets and hanging out with them is his favorite thing to do. His favorite animal companion is his dog.
Before long, he gets married. His wife loves animals too, and fills the house with a variety of them. One of these is a black, super-smart cat named Pluto. When the man starts drinking, his personality takes a turn for the worse. He starts physically and verbally abusing his wife and pets. One night, the narrator comes home from partying completely drunk. Thinking Pluto didn't want to hang out with him, he grabs the cat and cuts his eye out with a pen-knife.
One morning, not long after the eye-gouging, the narrator is overcome with a perverse impulse. He hangs Pluto from a tree in his garden, murdering him. Writing from his jail cell, the narrator claims he did it precisely because he knew it was wrong. That night, the night of the murder, the man's house catches fire and burns down. Only the man, his wife, and one servant are left alive. But, they lose all their money in the flames, along with the house. When the narrator returns the next day, there is a crowd in his bedroom, looking at his bedroom wall. On the wall is the slightly raised image of a "gigantic cat" with a rope around its neck.
Since he left the cat hanging all day and all night, he figures one of the neighbors cut it down and then threw it through his window to wake him up. Somehow it stuck in the plaster of the wall. This bothers the man for a long time.
One night when he's out drinking, another black cat appears on the scene. This cat looks just like Pluto, except for the little white spot on his chest. The man takes the cat home, and his wife is quite pleased.
When it is discovered that this cat is also missing an eye, the man begins to despise it, while the woman loves it all the more. After some time passes, the woman shows the man that the white spot on the cat's fur has grown. Oddly, the white spot now forms an image of "the GALLOWS!"
The man is too afraid of the cat to abuse it. The cat never leaves him alone for a moment, and even sits on his chest and breathes in his face when he is in bed. So, the man doesn't get any sleep. As his loathing of the cat increases, so does his physical and verbal abuse of his wife. One day he and his wife go down to the cellar of the crummy old house they live in now that they are poor. The cat follows them. In a fit of extreme irritation, the man tries to kill the cat with an axe. The woman stops him, and the man buries the axe in her brain, killing her.
The narrator wonders how best to conceal the body? After much deliberation, the man decides to hide the body in a space behind the cellar wall. That night, the man sleeps peacefully for the first time in ages. The cat is nowhere to be seen.
The cops come around, but the man has finesses them. No big deal. On the fourth day, still no cat. But, the police return and search the house again, especially the cellar. Right when they are about to leave, abandoning their search of the cellar, the narrator decides to start bragging about how well built the house is. He takes his cane and hits it against the spot in the wall where he's hidden his wife's body.
A noise answers his knock! It is a sad sound, like a kid crying. It sounds horrible and desperate, but also victorious. The police are on it. They take down the wall only to find the dead body, with the cat on top of its head. And that's why the narrator is in jail, sentenced to death by hanging. The narrator had accidentally shut the cat up in the wall with the body.



Disturbing physical and psychological transformations – often for the worst – are characteristic of most horror and Gothic tales. In "The Black Cat" some form of transformation occurs in nearly every paragraph. For the narrator, these changes are psychological. After he gets married, his personality spirals deeper and deeper toward the dark side, cruelly abusing his pets and his wife. His initially happy home life is turned upside down, and everyone involved is adversely affected and changed for the worse.


In "The Black Cat" the unnamed narrator offers us a parade of violent acts. Eye gouging, hanging, axing – these are the gruesome highlights. And by the end of the story the narrator has completely destroyed his family, and perhaps, completely destroyed himself in the process.

Drugs and Alcohol

In some stories drinking has both positive and negative effects on the drinkers. Not so in "The Black Cat." The unnamed narrator of this grim tale claims he began abusing his wife and pets when his drinking got out of control, wrecking his personality. The narrator uses alcohol as an excuse for his bad behavior.

Freedom and Confinement

"The Black Cat," a claustrophobic tale of marital life gone wrong, offers a distinct movement from freedom to confinement. We meet the narrator already in his prison cell, writing, to free himself from his bonds How he became so trapped is the subject of his writing and the reason why he has taken the pen to the page. We learn how he traps his wife and pets in a cycle of violence and abuse. While the man's story begins in a house of wealth and comfort it ends in brick tomb in the cellar of a rundown building. The narrator of "The Black Cat" feels trapped in his marriage and kills his wife to get out of her.

Character Analysis:

The Narrator

The narrator has major issues. This unnamed character is an abusive bully and a murderer. He made home a living hell for his wife, pets, and himself. And he doesn't seem to be confessing out of a sense of guilt. Over the course of the story, the narrator provides several reasons for his various behaviors. But mostly he seems to be blaming the cat (or cats) for all his problems.

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory:

The Rope, the Tree, the Gallows, the Cat

The second cat wears a symbol of Pluto's murder on its body. It becomes a symbol of the man's guilt and depravity, a visual reminder of his crime, and of his changing personality. It also foreshadows the man's own death by hanging.

The axe, the cellar

The axe has the potential to be used for violence. Most uses of the axe are violent, like chopping wood, for example. Firefighters use axes to save people, but the axe is still used violently to break things down. Here the axe is a symbol of the man's breakdown, and of the violent breakdown of his family.

The Black Cat

1.What was the narrator’s opnion about the animals at the beginning of the story?
2.Why did the narrator’s life change? How did he become a violent?
3.Why was the narrator so angry with Pluto? Why did he first punish him and then killed him?
4.What was the sign on the narrator’s wall? Why do you think it’s there? What did the narrator think about it?
5.What are the resemblances between the second cat and Pluto?
6.How did he hide his wife’s dead body?
7.How did the policemen realize that there’s something behind the wall?

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