The Black Cat
by Edgar Allan Poe
The Black Cat Theme of Violence
In "The Black Cat" the unnamed narrator offers us a parade of violent acts. Eye gouging, hanging, axing – these are the gruesome highlights. Until the end of the story, when somebody is killed, the detailed accounts of violence are focused on Pluto, the black cat who moves from pampered pet to persecuted beast. The violence the unnamed narrator practices against his wife and the other pets is rather vague. Yet, we get a pretty clear picture of what is happening. And by the end of the story the narrator has completely destroyed his family, and perhaps, completely destroyed himself in the process. In this horror classic, violence is an insidious beast that creeps, spreads, and grows uncontrollably, destroying all the bodies and minds it touches.
Questions About Violence
- How did you react to the violence in the story? Was there a particular act of violence that struck you? If so, which one?
- What do you think made the man turn violent? Do you believe him when he implies he wasn't violent before he got married and started drinking? Try to use the text to support your answer.
- Does the man do violence to himself? If so, how? If not, why not?
- Is there psychological abuse in the story? If so, where do you see it? Does the narrator state it explicitly, or is it only implied? Pick a passage to show what you mean.
Chew on This
Even though the man's says he loved his wife, he becomes violent because he isn't happy in his married life.
By focusing attention on helpless pets "The Black Cat" is an example of how art and activism can work hand in hand.