In the essay, a layered reading of the famous short story The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe has been attempted to fathom the literary meanings as well as the countless number of interpretation that can be constructed after a thorough and critical reading of the story. In this essay two new perspectives have been offered to the story, psychological and gothic in order to determine the transparent nature of the story and its openness to interpretations. Thesis Statement: The Black Cat is not merely a story of horror but the workings of a guilty conscience. The essay in three sections would demonstrate how adroitly the story assembles elements in order to deliver a different elucidation of the reading.
In the short story the psyche of the narrator is portrayed with the help of symbols and images of cat, physical annihilation and deliberate savagery.
The Black Cat by Poe contains a deeper psychological meaning apart from its surface reading appears as a tale of hatred and perversion is actually a psychoanalytic reading of a man’s descend to madness and dark terrains of the heart (Poe). The repeated appearance of the cats can be seen as an allusion to the degenerated psyche enwrapped with guilty conscience that compels the narrator to associate the cat subconsciously at every crime scene (Freud). His unflinching cruelty on Pluto, on a deeper reading, can be interpreted as displacement of emotions as theorized by Freud who stated that it is frequent in the realm of psychoanalyses to encounter cases where emotions that re-surface due to repressed experiences gets executed on another person or creature due to repressed impulses in the first place. The protagonist The Black Cat can be viewed as a victim of psychological tortures who is whimpering due to repressed anger in his subconscious mind. Since he is unable to channelize it at the right place, he bestows his irritation and frustration on his pet cat Pluto on whom he agreed to have had a feeling of intense affection bereft of cruelty. His projection of perverse cruelty and sudden shift in his behavioral pattern is a precise depiction of transference.
The gothic elements in the story are infused with critical workings of a fragmented psyche. A critical analysis of the story will show that the story has been crafted with mastery and art to communicate the readers uncanny workings of a guilt ridden conscience and gothic in a subtle manner that makes the reading worthy of manifold interpretations (Gale). The story at the first read may appear to be filled with pure gothic scattered with re-appearances of a dead cat and killing of his wife in grotesque manner. But the reading should never be restricted to a mere light reading but can also be seen as a birth of guilt ridden conscience due to reversed feline attraction. The story depicts the slow and unavoidable degeneration of the protagonist who after torturing his first cat Pluto never shies away from committing further acts of guilt and violence (Freud).
Edgar Allan Poe makes use of the cat to convey the darker and brutal side of human beings capable of absolute cruelty purely to derive pleasure out of it. Pluto becomes the sign of guilt and perversity and its re-appearance stands for the reemergence of the protagonist’s perverse desires and passion for inflicting violence and cruelty on those whom he held dear. Many times during the course of the narrative image of the cat emergences which creates a dubious situation both for the readers and protagonist accentuating the pre-existing mystery that engulfed the story (Poe). The readers are therefore confronted with the looming question as to whether the new cat that appears out of the blue is the ghost or apparition of Pluto who enigmatically misses an eye from the just like Pluto (Poe). These instances are precisely why the story by Edgar Allan Poe can be read in multiple readings for the purpose of stumbling upon meanings and symbols.
Therefore from the above readings it can be asserted that the story can be read from multiple perspectives and in each reading reader will be able to stumble upon coherent conclusions. The deeper theme of The Black Cat is not animal brutality but sadistic pleasure and guilt ridden conscience of human beings that can make an individual succumb to the all-pervading power of it. Poe has ingratiated these themes into the main theme of gothic noir that The Black Cat is exemplary of. It takes the reader to the deepest recesses of human mind and makes them examine it.
Works Cited Page:
Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the pleasure principle. Penguin UK, 2013.
Gale, Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Edgar Allan Poe's" Tell-Tale Heart". Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016.
Poe, Edgar Allan. A Descent into the Maelström. Edgar Allan Poe, 2015.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Booklassic, 2015.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Annotated Poe. Harvard University Press, 2015.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The pit and the pendulum. Edgar Allan Poe, 2015.