What does "fiend intemperance" mean?

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kathynichols's profile pic

kathynichols | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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In Poe's short story "The Black Cat," the expression "Fiend Intemperance" refers to the narrator's alcoholism. The word temperance can mean restraint or self control in any area, but is often specifically related to drinking. Intemperance means a lack of self-control in drinking alcohol. Poe personifies alcoholism by capitalizing both words. This indicates that it is a force completely out of the narrator's control that causes him to commit atrocious acts of violence. This attitude about alcoholism could be seen as Poe being ahead of his time in his ideas about alcoholism as a disease. More likely, however, is that it adds to the supernatural mood of the story by creating an unseen, but all-powerful force.

coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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This sounds like the controversial quote regarding possible alcohol misuse from 'The Black Cat' short story by Edgar Allen Poe. 'Fiend Intemperance' is seen by some as referring to the 'devil' of 'intemperate' or immoderate drinking of alcohol. There has also been speculation about possible drug misuse by Poe. In some ways it is understandable that an author who writes so convincingly about illusion,fantasy,nightmare and horror should be suspected of this kind of dabbling. However, some critics argue that it was fears and anxieties that led Poe to indulge - to a moderate level - and not the other way around.He is also known to have had physical symptoms and a nervous disposition that would have made him more than usually sensitive to the effects of stimulants, Maybe read the source in the link and then make up your mind?

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I don't know the context that you are asking this question in, so I can't connect it to whatever book you are reading or anything.  But here's the general idea of the term.

"Fiend" of course, is a word meaning something like a devil or a demon.  "Intemperance" means not doing things in moderation -- going overboard when you do stuff.  More specifically, it is the opposite of "temperance" -- temperance is usually defined as not drinking any alcohol.

So, intemperance means drinking alcohol, possibly too much alcohol.  Fiend means devil.  So the two words put together mean something like "demon Rum" -- the idea that drinking alcohol is like a demon that will ruin a person's life.

I hope that makes sense in context of whatever it is you are reading...

andyshao1's profile pic

andyshao1 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I am sure that he/ she is refering to "The Black Cat" by edgar allen poe and yes this helped on a question on my worksheet.

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