“The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe basically deals with brutal murder and domestic violence. The narrator, as in other Poe stories, attempts to convince the reader that he is not insane. Another focus of the story explores the nature of evil.
The narrator or main character shocks the reader with several hideous acts. He drinks too much although many men drink and do hurt animals that they profess to love. Actually, the man should be described as a violent bully, who makes his pets' and wife’s life hellish.
In his favor, he never complains about his selfless wife. However, this nameless killer finds himself in prison the night before his execution, wanting to tell his tale of perversion and murder. Blaming the black cats creates an excuse for the narrator because he refuses to take responsibility for his actions.
The first cat
Pluto was a beautiful, entirely black cat. He appeared to be loving and even intelligent as cats go. The narrator tells the reader that he loved the cat. Because of his drinking or possible insanity, he centers his distorted outlook on Pluto. [Pluto is the name of the Roman God of the underworld.]
Pluto goes from a beloved pet to having his eye cut out and eventually killed by hanging from a tree. The most peculiar event occurs when the narrator sees the image of the hanging cat burned into the wall of his burned house like a bas-relief. Mysterious to say the least, the portrait is probably a result of the man’s guilt.
The second cat
Missing an eye, completely black except for a white spot, the second cat could have been a twin of Pluto. The cat seemed to magically appear in a bar. The second cat enjoyed the attention and being petted. Subsequently, the man decides to take him home to his wife, who immediately loves him. The speaker provides many explanations for the similarities between Pluto and this cat.
Soon the man begins to detest the cat just as he had Pluto. Luckily for the cat, he resists abusing him. As the story progresses, the white spot expands to look like the gallows from which the man will eventually hang for the death of his wife. The cat follows the speaker everywhere. The cat even sits on his chest as he sleeps. One day, the man and the woman go down to the basement, and the cat follows them. Crazed by his hatred of the cat, the man picks up the axe intending to kill the cat. The wife prevents him, and in his insanity, he buries the axe in his wife’s brain. After walling up his wife’s body, several days go by before the police show up to inquire about his wife.
In his hubris, the narrator hits the wall of the cellar to brag to himself that he has fooled everyone. Suddenly, though a sound is heard:
at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell
The wall is pulled down and the cat is discovered walled up with the woman. Almost insane from his captivity, the cat was sitting on the head of the woman. He had been surviving by eating the flesh of the wife.