Poe realistically deals with an aspect of alcoholism not as often observed as one might expect today, given the extent to which substance abuse in general is a problem in our time. This is the phenomenon of the "angry drunk." Though alcohol has the effect of immobilizing some people, on others it has the opposite result, causing them to become abusive and physically violent.
This, if we're to believe at least part of this archetype of an unreliable narrator's account, is what precipitates the chain of catastrophes in "The Black Cat." In the melodramatic language of his period, Poe describes the "fiend intemperance" as the cause of the violence inflicted upon poor Pluto, the other pets, and eventually the man's wife.
Poe's observations about alcohol abuse are accurate and clinical to a degree perhaps unusual for his time. In asking "what disease is like alcohol?" he recognizes, simply by using the word, that excessive drinking is not just a weakness or a moral failing, as it was generally...
(The entire section contains 542 words.)