What is the significance of this quote from "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe? "There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him...

What is the significance of this quote from "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe?

"There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man."

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

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Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" is narrated by a man who says he is going to die tomorrow so he wants to unburden his soul today. Unfortunately, he is not a particularly reliable narrator, as we learn throughout the story. 

This quote, however, does relate a truth to which most animal lovers can relate. 

There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.

The narrator is making the point that a pet loves in a way that is much more unselfish and less self-centered than most people choose to love.Those who have a pet intuitively know that our pets will forgive our transgressions and love them despite our flaws, which is not always true of our human friends who are not faithful and true. Often human friendship is gossamer-thin, like a spider web, and it does not last or linger. So, the narrator's statement is generally valid in life.

What is significant about this statement, though, is the great irony it expresses. While the narrator may once have loved his pets as his pets loved him, he abuses them so terribly that they turn on him--or at least he believes they turn against him. Their "unselfish and self-sacrificing love" fails to move his heart, though he clearly claims it does, and eventually his actions are so egregious that even his loving creatures turn on him. He is the unfaithful one, the one who offers only a "paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity."

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