Gothic Elements in ‘The Black Cat’

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Edgar Allan Poe is considered to be one of the greatest gothic writers in literature. From his works such as the tell-tale heart to the cask of amontillado and ligeia to thefall of the house of usher he is a master at bringing horror and suspense to writing. Anotherstory which parallels the tell-tale heart is the Black Cat. In it the narrator becomesderanged and obsessed with a Black Cat that he has as a pet. Eventually it gets to the point wherehe eventually murders the cat out of sheer rage and irrationality. 

Throughout this short story poeuses high emotions setting and disturbing imagery to show the psychology of the narrator which is what makes it gothic literature. High destructive emotions are one of the main motivators of the narrator and a key pieceof the entire story. In the beginning of the story the narrator has a good relationship with his catpluto. A strong and loving relationship that makes pluto the main companion of the narrator pluto--this was the cat's name--was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him and heattended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could preventhim from following me through the streets pg 671 the relationship manifests due to thenarrators love towards animals especially pluto. However during the course of the story thatrelationship takes a drastic change for the worse. The narrator begins to mistreat pluto and has such an extreme hatred for the cat he once loved. Not only does the narrator express angertowards the Black Cat he goes an extra step or two further; his rage is so large that he begins tophysically harm the cat for his own sadistic pleasures my original soul seemed at once to takeits flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence gin-nurtured thrilled every fibreof my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a penknife opened it grasped the poor beast bythe throat and deliberately cut one of its eye from the socket pg 671 soon that physical harmeventually leads to pluto being murdered then the narrators own wife. 

The setting is another big element of gothic literature. Many gothic stories aretraditionally set within castles or giant manors they sometimes include dungeons and even secretpassageways. although the Black Cat isnt set in a castle there is a cellar that creates thatsame dark and dreary atmosphere for a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Itswalls were loosely constructed and had lately been plastered throughout with a rough plaster which the dampness of the atmosphere had prevented from hardening pg 675 the descriptionof the cellar creates an air of unpleasantness which is similar to a dungeon. Along with thecellar theres also a hidden compartment which contributes to the gothic setting because of itsability it hide things from the outside world. The narrator puts this to use to conceal the body ofhis murdered wife moreover in one of the walls was a projection caused by a false chimney or fireplace that had been filled up and made to resemble the rest of the cellar. I made no doubtthat i could readily displace the bricks at this point insert the corpse and wall the whole up asbefore so that no eye could detect any thing suspicious pg 675 the use of the compartmentadds to the parallels of two other edgar allan poe stories: the tell-tale heart and the cask of amontillado. Both the cellar and hidden compartment are settings where most of the horrortakes place in the story which makes them fitting elements of gothic literature.

Finally poes disturbing imagery is what truly makes this story gothic. The gruesomedescriptions are meant to inflict horror from the reader and poe does this very well. In the Black Cat these descriptions include the narrators thoughts which should be considereddisturbing to readers. While in the cellars the narrator goes through another emotionalbreakdown and ends up murdering his wife with an axe. Its this description that is the mosthorrific due to the circumstance of the murder along with the nonchalant way he describes it:but this blow was arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded by the interference into a rage morethan demoniacal i withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain. She felldead upon the spot without a groan pg 674 the narrator doesnt feel any guilt nor does heevade what he just did. He states bluntly how he killed her instantly and without any remorse. He then goes on to continue this grotesqueness by thinking of hiding her body this hideousmurder accomplished I set myself forthwith and with entire deliberation to the task ofconcealing the body. I knew that i could not remove it from the house either by day or by night without the risk of being observed by the neighbors. Many projects entered my mind. At oneperiod i thought of cutting the corpse into minute fragments and destroying them by fire. At another I resolved to dig a grave for it in the floor of the cellar pg 674-75 the thoughtprocess the narrator goes through weighs the multiple options of hiding her body and not feelingany emotions about it adds to that shocked feeling that the reader experiences. 

Poe creates these incredible worlds filled with horror and the supernatural that leaves thereader shaking. The way he illustrates villainous characters dark settings brutal plotlines andevery little detail in between is what makes him a great writer. The Black Cat is a story about aman whose aggression towards his cat leads him to doing other brutally violent acts. In the waysthat poe uses high emotions setting and disturbing imagery he is able to create a story that is aperfect example of gothic literature.

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Gothic Elements In 'The Black Cat'. (2021, May 24). Retrieved February 26, 2024 , from

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