Poe’s The Black Cat and Internal Conflict

By: Colleen vonVorys-Norton


Edgar Allen Poe’s The Black Cat is the story of a mans descent into madness. In the beginning, when he is a child, he is a devout animal lover. As the story progresses, he begins to abuse the animals due to his alcoholism. The animal that is closest to him is his black cat named Pluto. When he breaks and abuses Pluto, he drunkenly cuts out the cat’s eye. Later he is driven to harm the animal again and he hangs the cat on a tree. That night, his house burns down and he and his wife narrowly escape. A while later, another cat appears to him, this one is black with a patch of white. He brings that cat into him hope. Over time, the black goes away and the cat mysteriously loses an eye, leading it to look like Pluto. In a fit of rage, he tries to kill the cat but his wife stops him. Reflexively he then murders his wife. Having to hide the body, he puts her into the wall. When the police come through, they almost leave but the man gets cocky and hits the wall to show that it is solid. Because of that, an inhuman noise comes from the wall and once it is opened, it is revealed that the cat was buried into the wall with the body of the wife.


I mostly chose this story because I have a black cat but wow I was in for a surprise

Edgar Allen Poe is one of the most famous American writers. What makes his voice so distinct is the ability to show American ideals in dark and haunting ways. In The Black Cat, Poe discusses the concept of civilized vs savage. This is an American concept because on the frontier this idea was put head to head. Poe uses the stereotypes to show these two sides. The civilized side is the husband with a love for animals. The savage side is his treatment of his wife and pets. This polarity plays out and is the internal conflict within the narrator, like the conflict between the Native Americans and the settlers was a conflict on the frontier. With this idea in mind, “Poe’s narrator is “mad” because his behavior deviates from all the moral maxims in traditional ethics, which is on the side of the good and the social order, while his drive ethics is on the side of chaos, madness, and death” (Wing-Chi Ki 2009, 569). But he is only viewed as being mad because he is not fitting into the norms of the dominant social structure.

Poe’s story “may be more a statement on the insufficiency of human reason than the nature of the human will” (Stark 2004, 263). This also plays into the American ideals because there is a strong belief of being in control of one’s destiny within the culture.

Poe shows these ideals through haunting stories because it makes the ideas less normalized within the society reading it. Since it is taken to the extreme, people are able to identify the issues within the text since it sticks in the back of their minds, especially when they see a black cat.


Work Cited

Ki, Magdalen Wing-Chi. “Diabolical evil and ‘The Black Cat’.” The Mississippi Quarterly no. 3-4 (2009): 569. Literature Resource Center, EBSCOhost (accessed November 7, 2017).

Ki, Magdalen Wing-Chi. “Diabolical evil and ‘The Black Cat’.” The Mississippi Quarterly no. 3-4 (2009): 569. Literature Resource Center, EBSCOhost (accessed November 7, 2017).

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