What is the significance of the fire in Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Black Cat"? There's a symbolic phenomenon that I don't seem to understand.

2 Answers | Add Yours

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The fire itself in "The Black Cat" is not immensely significant, but its effect is.  On the very night that the narrator hangs his once-beloved cat Pluto, his house catches on fire.  The entire house with the exception of one wall is destroyed.  When the narrator approaches a crowd gathered around the remaining wall, he notices that a figure on the wall, almost as if an artist had created it, is drawing their attention.  He states that it is

"the figure of a gigantic cat. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous. There was a rope about the animal's neck."

The strange phenomenon is simply that one wall remains which bears a striking, supernaturally created image of a hanging cat.  The narrator sees this incident as his dead cat pointing him out from the grave, and it causes him to slide further into his insanity.

As a side note, the fire adds to Poe's hell motif in this story.  His first cat bears the name of the god of the underworld, and the fire creates a sense of certain damnation for the narrator's actions.

We’ve answered 317,397 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question