Edgar Allan Poe’s story The Black Cat is one of the most memorable as it explores the psychological self-destruction of a man. The cat itself is an important symbol that plays the role of an omen, which leads his owner down the road of insanity and loss of reasoning.
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As it is believed that black cats are “witches in disguise,” it is not surprising that Poe chose to use a cat to add to the dark and magical mood of the story. While the narrator dismissed the possible magical significance of the cat, the superstition gave flavor to the story. For instance, when the main character looked at the image of the cat on the wall, he saw it as “gigantic”; however, whether the size of the animal was an expression of paranormal or the product of imagination remained for the story’s readers to be discovered. In a similar vein, the main character saw the patch of white fur on the animal to take the shape of gallows, a “mournful and terrible engine of horror and crime.” Although, it is much more likely that the transformation was a twisting of the narrator’s mind.
When speaking of the cat as not the symbol of witchcraft but rather a sign of a human being’s capacity to observe personal destruction, the first black cat that appeared in the story as a symbol of the main character’s evil mind and heart. Pluto was named after the God of the Underworld and was hung by his owner who understood the evil of his crime and felt guilt. Although, the sense of guilt disappeared after the narrator killed his wife, which pointed to his perverseness and aggression as “one of the primitive impulses of the human heart.”
The character of the second black cat did not only remind the owner of his deterioration but also that he was initially prone to perverseness. It became clear that the cat was an omen – a sign that predicted a bad event, according to the superstition. The cat warned its owner of the dangers of alcohol, a substance that destroyed the lives of many. In the beginning, the narrator seemed to love both his wife and pets; although, by the end of the story, the innate struggles of the main character overtook and made him impartial to the fate of his loved ones.