Study Guide

The Black Cat Violence

By Edgar Allan Poe


I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. (6)

We might not want to hang out with him, but the man seems bluntly honest here. Have you ever felt the way the narrator describes himself in this passage? Come on, it's OK to admit it. In the case of the man, this "day by day" never seems to stop. It seems to apply month by month, and year by year by year, erupting constantly into violence.

My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill-used them. (6)

This is a chilling moment. It's hard to get over. Something about "ill-used" is particularly disturbing, maybe because it leaves so much to the imagination. When the narrator blinds Pluto, we know exactly what went down. It's painful, but there is only so far our imaginations can take it.

I took from my waistcoat pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! (7)

What a coincidence. We were just talking about this. While the less detailed quote above might be scarier if we think about it for a while, we might miss it if we're reading fast. Not so with this moment. It's short, to the point, and not as open to misinterpretation.

One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree […]. (9)

When he wants to, this guy can be clear. The murder of Pluto is described in precise details. Is the murder weapon important here? Why or why not? Also, notice the phrase "cool blood." The violence up to now was done in fits of drunkenness, and irritation. Here the narrator was "cool." It's morning and this is just how he decides to start his day, or so he would have us believe. He doesn't stay cool for long. When he hangs the cat on the tree he can't stop crying his eyes out.

Goaded, by the interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp, and buried the axe in her brain. (23)

We don't need him to tell us about the pool of blood and the puddle of gore. We can imagine the whole scene. We also have some cause and effect going on. The man gets mad because his wife interferes with his plans to kill the cat.

[…] I was answered by a voice from within the tomb! -- by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream […]. (31)

The idea of the cat sobbing like a kid brings makes us feel all the suffering and trauma heaped upon his head. By comparing the cat to a sobbing child, Poe increases our sympathy for this horribly abused animal and draws our attention to animal rights.