Edgar Allan Poe— one of the first writers of his time to have earned his living through the publication of his works— is renowned for his short stories. His diverse catalogue includes his famous The Fall of the House of Usher, The Purloined Letters and many more among which The Black Cat has a place of its own in the Gothic legacy that Poe had contributed in inspiring many authors. The short story was written from the perspective of a convicted murderer who wanted to “unburden his soul” the day before his death. A crime he confessed to in the narration of the story, recounting his transformation from a kind, animal-loving child to a remorseless killer.
He begins by saying that whatever he was about to pen down might seem absurd and incomprehensible to the readers. Then, assures us that he isn’t mad and that he’ll explain the horrifying events with logic and science and thus starts his narrating the “household events” which has led to his current circumstances. The narrator talks about his love for animals ever since he was a child and how lucky he was to find a wife with the same dispositions as his. As nice and friendly as the story had started, it soon takes a tragic turn which is brought with the introduction of the Narrator’s pet cat, Pluto. An unusually large and intelligent cat he adored. Soon things start to take a turn for the worst as one event after other leads to his inevitable demise. The story was written with several symbolic values as well as metaphorical narratives. Among all the metaphors which include the cat’s eyes, the fire, the image on the lone wall after the fire and many more; the main and the most prominent metaphor has to be the cat itself. The title of the story was enough of an emphasis to establish that. But what exactly did Poe want to emphasize when he named the cat Pluto? The name of the cat here is one of the most prominent of metaphors used. Pluto— possibly named after the God of the Underworld in Roman Mythology. The underworld — a dark, doomed and lonely place as presumed by many when mentioned. The black cat’s presence was probably associated with the dark underworld or even the God of the Underworld, which would explain choosing the name ‘Pluto’ by the author. The horrifying events that had unfolded, leading to the Narrator’s doom might as well represent the mysterious and lonely life in the underworld which is a reflection of the Narrator’s life after the fire.
The author, therefore, uses the cat to metaphorize the mysterious, evil and dark events and the almost demonic transformation of the narrator. The animal in the narrator and the almost human nature of Pluto could be regarded interchangeably. The narrator’s dark side which emerged slowly was reflected in the presence of the “black” cat. The ending of the narration also quickly describes that a “black cat” dragged the narrator down with it, symbolizing probably, the God of the Underworld —Pluto, to the underworld, his doom.