Portafolios Electrónicos - Uniandes

The Black Cat BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

by Juan David Barragán Méndez

  • Edgar Allan Poe was the son of two traveling actors and was orphaned at the age of two year. Probably, this permanent unsteadiness and insecurity marked his life.
  • Poe was raised with his uncle JOHN ALLAN who was a prosperous merchant of snuff in Virginia. Poe was educated in England, but was spelt from University of Charlottesville for being a compulsive gambler, which deteriorated the relationship with his uncle who had adopted him as a child.
  • Poe travelled to Boston, Masachusetts in 1827 to publish his first volume of poetry "TAMERLÁN". His second book of poetry was launched in 1829 in Baltimore.
  • After being expelt from the US Military Academy "West Point, he made an abrupt change in his life by being involved in the literary world.
  • Poe was constantly on the verge of insanity which was reflected in various of his stories
I believe that the environment in which we grow up as social beings has a huge influence in what we are and in the way we perform our daily life activities. On the one hand, the situations that surround us since we are born stimulate certain ways of behavior. For example, we learn from our parents specific ways of expressing ourselves such as accents or an unique vocabulary that is used in a particular zone. On the other hand, there is a big list of social manners and customs that we also adopt from the events that take place throughout our lives. Necessarily, these events make part of our evironment. In this regard, we can mention gender roles. Gender roles involve a list of customs that are supposed to be appropriate for individuals depending on their sex. As a matter of fact, since we are born, we are taught to follow certain parameters of behavior that are socially appropriate in relation to our sex.
We adopt socially constructed features that perpetuate an order previously established based on gender roles. Indeed, girls are taught to be sensitive, submissive and obedient. In contrast, boys learn not to be sentimental or weak. Moreover, boys are advised not to adopt feminine manners. Based on these characteristics, human beings are encouraged to practice these gender parameters in work.
 

When reading "The Black Cat" it can be noticed how the narrator is totally aware of his mental sickness and deterioration, and at particular moments through the story, he admits the change that is taking over him. Then, he attempts to do something about it, but he finds himself unable to reverse his falling into madness.

Curiously, the narrator had a special relationship with Pluto, the cat, which had endured for years. Suddenly, one day the narrator, due to the influence of alcohol, made a vast change. In fact, he says: "I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others." Thus, Poe pointed out that a man had the power of having an undergoing reversal of personality and of falling into a state of madness at any moment. In this sense, the narrator focuses on that change. As a result, when he returned home drunk he grasped the cat by its throat and with a pen knife cut out one of its eyes. This act of perversity is just the beginning of several such acts which will characterize the "totality of effect" that Poe wanted to achieve in this story.

What is more, next morning he pointed out that he was abruptly horrified by what he had done. After the brutal accident of losing of the eyes, the cat avoided the narrator. Meantime, the spirit of perverseness overcame him again — this time, with an unfathomable longing of the soul to "offer violence . . . to do wrong for the wrong's sake only."

 

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