What is the significance of the cat's name, Pluto, in "The Black Cat," by Edgar Allan Poe?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The narrator of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" is a murderer who claims that he was once so kind-hearted and docile that he was made fun of by his peers. He especially loved animals, however, and his parents allowed him to own many of them. When he got married, he and his like-minded wife were soon the owners of goldfish, birds, a dog, a small monkey, rabbits, and a cat.

This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. 

Pluto -- this was the cat's name -- was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.

Things are fine for several years, but soon the speaker's disposition begins to change, and he begins to abuse both his wife and his animals. both through neglect and violence. 

For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew upon me -- for what disease is like Alcohol ! -- and at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish -- even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.

Of course we know that the narrator eventually cruelly kills Pluto.

It is interesting to note that Pluto is the Greek god of the underworld (Hell). So, he is both a god and the king of Hell. This is apt for Pluto's position in the narrator's life. The man claims to love animals more than people, comparing his relationship with Pluto to the "paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man." It is an exalted, godlike friendship. Soon, however, the man's disdain for humans is revealed, and it is hard to believe he does not feel the same disdain for all creatures, including Pluto.

The acts which follow are certain to condemn the perhaps delusional but not repentant narrator to a life in hell, where of course he will be met (figuratively, at least) by Pluto, god of the underworld (and black cat from his past). 

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