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The Story of Moral Decline Analysis Essay

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Updated: Sep 3rd, 2021

Alan Poe’s tale explores the state of mind of a character in decadence. It is interesting that the main character (both the narrator and protagonist) introduces himself at first as a person who in his childhood is docile and sensitive. As the tale unfolds, the narrator/protagonist, in perhaps an expiation of guilt, tries to describe how his mind and spirit were functioning when he committed the atrocities on the black cat and later his wife. The tragic end shows that an absurd crime is absurdly uncovered.

While the process of change from such ‘docile’ nature to a vile one is not explained, the state of mind in which the crimes are perpetuated is described. The first series of crimes were committed on the black cat, Pluto. Pluto from all the pets that the protagonist owns is his favorite. However, as the protagonist’s character was ‘altering for the worse, as he puts it, even Pluto is not spared. A first crime is committed against it; his owner intentionally causes it blindness in one eye. At this point of narration, the blame is put on alcohol which is qualified as the ‘Fiend Intemperance’. As soon as the protagonist is sober, he reflects upon his act. Elaborate self-introspection is shared with the reader. The clarity of the analysis demonstrates that the introspection has come much later in time than the actual moment when the effect of alcohol is over. The narrator puts a name onto the attributes of the demeanor that has led to the crime: the spirit of Perverseness. It is the attribute he gives to the act of committing a gratuitous crime. By the time the second crime has taken place whereby the cat is killed and hanged up, the psychological motive of the perpetrator is more elaborately described. Pluto’s pitfall in the eyes of the protagonist is its unconditional love of the animal and the sheer power in hands of the protagonist to commit the sinful crime.

The theme of love and how the twisted character of the protagonist deals with it is further developed with the introduction of the other cat into the narrative. The other cat somehow comes into the story to better elucidate the decadent character of the protagonist. At first, when the new pet is introduced to the narrative, especially that there is a clear physical resemblance with Pluto, the reader is tempted to believe that the new character may be a tool of redemption. As the narrative develops, it becomes clear that the protagonist follows the same pattern of returning love with cruelty. The affection that the new pet unconditionally offers to its owner is faced with growing repulsion on the part of this latter. These two dynamics ascend to a point where the aversion leads to the fatal and ultimate crime in the tale, the killing of the wife. The protagonist’s wife is mistakenly killed while the target is in fact the cat. This yet tragic event does not bring in any improvement in the main character’s personality. The protagonist is overwhelmingly relieved that the cat disappears upon the killing and the walling up of the wife, leaving little room to actually reflect on the crime.

The tale ends with the uncovering of the body of the wife in an absurd manner. In a spur of confidence about well hiding the body, while in the presence of policemen, the protagonist strikes hard the wall whereby the corpse is fixated which revealed a cat that he was unaware of- the cat is walled up with a corpse. He is given away, against his presumptuous thought that his crime is perfectly hidden. The absurd manner by which the corpse is discovered by the policeman only matches the absurdity of the act of crime itself.

The cat is an instrumental element in the thematic development of the story. The manifestation of the decadence of the character’s demeanor is exposed through the crimes against the black cat. The cat which is a source of unconditional love becomes a tool of punishment when this love is not properly returned. The protagonist’s house burns down and the protagonist in a mystic yet not a repentant stream of thought links it to his killing of Pluto to the incident. The cat is the one who later gives away the protagonist to the police by meowing from behind the wall. The whole story seems to be an attempt to probe into the rationale of a twisted psycho, to the character of a persona which can not handle spontaneous love and torments that which is the source of love. The character is better off without love and does not feel remorse to afflict horrible pain and even death to the one who gives that much love. While the details remain above all a description of the state of mind of a cold-blooded criminal, if a moral should be derived from the story’s denouement is that to an absurd crime absurd uncover.

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