The Black Cat: What Goes Around Comes Around


In his story "The Black Cat," Edgar Allan Poe dramatizes his experience
with madness, and challenges the readers suspension of disbelief by using
imagery in describing the plot and characters. Poe uses foreshadowing to
describe the scenes of sanity versus insanity. He writes “for the most wild yet
homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor illicit belief.
Yet mad I am not- and surely do I not dream,” alerts the reader about a
forthcoming story that will test the boundaries of reality and fiction. The
author asserts his belief of the activities described in the story when he
states “to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburden my soul”(80).
Poe describes his affectionate temperament of his character when he
writes “my tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of
my companions”(80). He also characterizes his animal friends as "unselfish" and
their love as “self-sacrificing” illustrating to the readers his devotion to
them for their companionship. The author uses foreshadowing in the statement “we
had birds, goldfish, a fine dog, a rabbit, a small monkey, and a cat”(80). The
use of italics hints to the reader of upcoming events about the cat that peaks
interest and anticipation. Poe also describes a touch foreshadowing and
suspension of disbelief when he illustrates his wives response to the cat when
he writes "all black cats are witches in disguise, not that she was ever serious
upon this point-and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than it
happened, just now, to be remembered"(80).
Poe expresses his early attachment to the cat and dramatizes the
character changes he experiences when he writes "our friendship lasted, in this
manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character-
through instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance-had (I blush to confess it)
experienced a radical alteration for the worse"(81). He warns the reader of new
events in a cynical tone and implies the beginning of the madness he denies. Poe
first illustrates this madness when he uses imagery to describe the brutal scene
with the cat when he writes "I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen knife, opened
it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes
from the socket!"
The author describes his emotional and physical state of being during
the unthinkable act as "I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable
atrocity"(81). He describes the morning aftereffect of his actions when he
states "when reason returned with the morning-when I had slept off the fumes of
the night\'s debauch-I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse,
for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and
equivocable feeling, and the soul remained untouched"(81). Now Poe implies to
the readers that he has truly crossed over into madness by brutally attacking
the animal and feeling little or no remorse.
Next Poe dramatizes his change in character even further when he writes
"and then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of
PERVERSENESS,"(81) which once again alerts the reader of new events so shocking
that reading forward becomes an essentiality. The author illustrates a scene so
outrageous that the reader has to go beyond the suspension of disbelief they
have agreed to participate in. He writes "One morning, in cold blood, I slipped
a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree;-hung it with tears
streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart;-hung it
because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no
reason of offense;-hung it because I knew that in so I was committing a sin-a
deadly sin that would jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it-if such a thing
were possible- even beyond the reach of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible
God"(81-82).
Now the reader has crossed over the line of reality versus fiction. The
author continues to illustrate the inconceivable story when he describes the
scene after the fire that destroyed every part of the house except the one wall
that was still standing. Poe writes "I approached and saw, as if graven in bas-
relief upon the white surface the figure of a gigantic cat and there was a rope
around the animals neck,"(82) leading the readers to join the madness and
believe that this was the same cat that Poe had savagely destroyed earlier