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What is the significance of the fire in Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Black Cat"?...

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chaska | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 28, 2009 at 5:01 AM via web

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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.

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

Posted October 28, 2009 at 5:39 AM (Answer #1)

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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.

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vampiric | (Level 1) Honors

Posted October 28, 2009 at 6:18 AM (Answer #2)

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Doesnt the fire cast a shadow of the Cat causeing it to seem bigger?

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