Critical Interpretations of Poe's The Black Cat

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Critical Interpretations of Poe's The Black Cat Edgar Allan Poe's classic tale, "The Black Cat," is a disturbing story that delves into the contrasts between reality and fantasy, insanity and logic, and life and death. To decipher one distinct meaning presented in this story undermines the brilliance of Poe's writing. Multiple meanings can be derived from "The Black Cat," which lends itself perfectly to many approaches of critical interpretation. One of the staples of Poe's writing is the dramatic effect it has on the reader. Poe is known for his masterful use of grotesque, and often morbid, story lines and for his self-destructive characters and their ill-fated intentions. "The Black Cat" is no different from any of his other stories, and thus a Pragmatic/Rhetorial interpretation is obviously very fitting. If Pragmatic/Rhetorical criticism focuses on the effect of a work on its audience, then "The Black Cat" serves as a model for all other horror stories. One of the most intriguing aspects Poe introduces into the story is the black cat itself. The main character initially confesses a partiality toward domestic pets, especially his cat. Most readers can identify with an animal lover, even if they themselves are not. It is not long though before the reader learns of the disease that plagues the main character - alcoholism. Again, the reader can identify with this ailment, but it is hard to imagine that alcoholism could be responsible for the heinous actions made by the main character. In a drunken rage the main character cuts out one of the cat's eyes with a pen knife, and act at which he even shudders. Then, only after the cat's slow recovery from that attack, does the man hang the cat from the limb of a tree. ... ... middle of paper ... ...n character's life is her murder. Although he kills her in a fit of rage, and not in any premeditated fashion, he shows no remorse while she lies dead in the cellar. His only concern is the removal of her body. The Feminist critic would view this as an attack on the value of the wife's life. Of course there is no way of knowing how Poe wished the audience to see the wife, but it is very likely that she serves no other purpose than to link the black cat to the main character's demise. This view alone would offend the feminist critic who views the wife as a much more integral part of the story. No matter which critical interpretation is used, it is evident that Poe's "The Black Cat" is a unique story that relies on key aspects, such as graphic violence and sensational imagery, to heighten the reader's perception toward the limits and depths of the human mind.

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