19th October 2018

Wide reading 5 – The black cat

“I turned and put the knife’s point deep into her heart! She fell to the floor and died without a sound.” The black cat is a gothic short story written by Edgar Allan Poe. This short story is about a seemingly normal man who starts getting addicted to alcohol. The side effects of this start to make him crazy and he thinks that all his animals are turning away from him. He, later on, kills one of his cats before turning the blade on his wife. When the police come around to investigate he gives them some very obvious clues and gives himself up. I will be talking about how the protagonist in this story shows the traits of a gothic protagonist and how they show the traits of distinct contrasting qualities to their character and driven by strong emotions rather than logic or reason.  I will also be talking about how the protagonist having and showing these traits made me feel.

A gothic protagonist shows six traits. These traits are distinct contrasting qualities to their character,  usually of a high social rank or hold a position of power, often surrounded by devices the foreshadow something negative, driven by strong emotions rather than logic or reason, generally secretive or surrounded by an air of mystery and has a “need to know” or curious nature. The gothic protagonist in this story (who hasn’t been named) shows the traits of contrasting qualities and driven by strong emotions rather than logic or reason. During the novel, the gothic protagonist thinks his pet cat is trying to avoid him so he grabs hold of it and cuts out its eye. “My soul seemed to fly from my body. I took a small knife out of my coat and opened it. Then I took the poor animal by the neck and with one quick movement I cut out one of its fear-filled eyes!” This is a perfect example of the gothic protagonist driven by the emotion of anger instead of logic or reason. The gothic protagonist gets angry over something that wasn’t even occurring. He thought the cat was avoiding him so he irrationally attacked the innocent cat and cut its eye out. He isn’t logically thinking. There is, in reality, no reason for him to do this however his anger takes control of him and he does it anyway.  This makes me think that he is crazy. He attacks the pet cat that he has had for years and bonded with for years because he thought it was avoiding him. If he was being rational then he would know that a cat does not have the power to do this. This tells me that his thoughts are driven by his strong emotions compared to logic or reason and therefore giving him a trait of a gothic protagonist. 

The protagonist in this story also shows the gothic trait of distinct contrasting qualities. Distinct contrasting qualities means having a quality that often contradicts the other. For example, the protagonist in this story shows that they are very careful about cleaning up the murder of his wife and hiding the body yet he basically told the police where the body was. These two qualities would be secretive but yet honest at the same time. These two qualities don’t correlate. If you are secretive then you will try and hide things from other and avoid being truthful if that’s what it takes in order to keep something a secret. “A few people came and asked about my wife, but I answered them easily.” The protagonist tries very hard to cover the murder of his wife. He hides the body in an old fireplace with such accuracy “With much effort I put the body in and carefully put the stones back in their place.” This contradicts with the protagonists quality of honesty. The protagonist tells the police where he has hidden the body of his dead wife. “The walls of this building,” I said, “are very strongly built; it is a fine old house.” And as I spoke I struck with my stick that very place in the wall behind which was the body of my wife.” Why would the protagonist tell the police where the body is after he has put so much effort into hiding it? It makes no sense. He does it because his quality of honesty overpowers his quality of secrets and wonder.

I think Poe has done this for a reason. He has done this to create a gothic protagonist. By creating a protagonist with the traits of distinct contrasting qualities and driven by strong emotions rather than logic or reason. He has also done this to make us feel uneasy. A common convention of gothic fiction is to make us feel uneasy and Poe has definitely done this is this short story. I think I reacted in this way because of the protagonist in the story. He did some really messed up and sick things because he was following his emotions rather than logic or reason. To me, animal cruelty is a horrible thing to do and makes me feel so angry, uneasy and sad. When he cut the eye out of the cat it made me feel sick and uneasy. For some reason, I am almost able to feel the cats pain. I think I feel this way because it can be related to reality and ourselves. I start thinking what if that was my eye and Poe has done this so that he can get a reaction out of us as a reader and make us feel uneasy.

The black cat moved me in a way that me feel very uneasy. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a short story that is twisted and captivating at the same time.  

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