There are a few similarities between the narrator in this story and the one in the story “The Imp of The Perverse”. Both of them can feel this uncontrollable urge that makes them do something wrong just because it is wrong and that doesn’t allow them to stop thinking about doing something evil or deviant. The author calls it perverseness. The impossibility to resist any perverse urge pursues the main character in the story “The Black Cat” in many situations.
The narrator tells us why he ended up in prison in order to relieve his soul. He used to be a very sensitive person in a positive way. He liked all kinds of animals and therefore had many different pets as a kid. As an adult and married man he drinks alcohol much more than he should and because of that the relationship with his wife and pets is getting worse during the time. The first sign of perverseness appears with the excessive drinking of alcohol. When he is drunk, he cuts one of the eyes of his black cat from the socket. He doesn’t regret it and after some time comes “the spirit of perverseness” as he calls it that urges him to finish the wickedness he has done to the poor cat. He hangs the black cat, Pluto, to the limb of a tree without a particular reason. He hung it because he knew it is wrong and evil. This was the actual reason.
After a few months the narrator spots a black cat with a white patch on its breast and takes it home. However, he becomes annoyed by the presence of the new cat and thinks again of hurting it. He manages to withstand the perverse urge for some weeks, but then one day he almost stumbles over the cat on the way into the cellar and this activates his anger and destroys all the boundaries stopping him from torturing the cat. He gives in and tries to kill the cat with an axe, but his wife stops him which makes him even angrier and he kills her immediately.
He walls the dead body up, but he can not find the cat. He thinks that the cat just ran away and probably will never come back. He finally feels happy and free. After months of perverse urges being present in his mind these urges suddenly disappear. The police comes to his house, but the narrator remains absolutely calm, because he knows he is safe. The police officers didn’t find anything that would be suspicious and want to leave, but the narrator starts talking about how first-rate the walls in this house are. The perverseness is brought to light once again. Somewhere inside he can’t stand the feeling of safety and that is the reason why he knocks on the wall with his cane, although he might not be aware of it. Surprisingly he gets a response from behind the wall, it is a long scream or cry. The officers take the wall down and reveal the corpse of narrator’s wife and the black cat sitting on its head. In the end of the story the protagonist blames the cat for the crimes and bad deeds he has done.
The author claims that we can find this “imp of perverseness” in every human being and that it belongs to the human nature. Everyone of us probably felt at least once this urge to break the rule just because it is a rule. This perverseness as it is shown by the author could also be just another term for the id that the famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud, describes a few decades later after Poe.
Signs of madness in “The Black Cat”
- alcohol addiction – The narrator is mad in some way, because he is not able to control his consume of alcohol. Also the alcohol itself drives him crazy in some way, because when he is drunk, he loses all boundaries and has violent mood swings (tortures his pets).
- the black cat – The narrator makes himself believe that the black cat is avoiding his presence and afterwards attacks it. After some time he kills it for no certain reason.
- absence of remorse – The protagonist doesn’t feel guilty and doesn’t regret what he has done. He says that he has a strange feeling, but his soul remains untouched. He even has the feeling he has done the right thing after killing his cat.
- outline of the dead cat on the wall – He sees an outline of hanged Pluto on the only remaining wall after his house burned down. However, it is very probable that there was no outline on the wall.
- thoughts of the dead cat – He can’t get rid of thoughts of Pluto. These thoughts haunt him during the day and night.
- desire to have another cat – The narrator longs to have another cat (similar to the first one) and he even finds it.
- the second black cat – After some time spent with his new cat he is annoyed and starts avoiding it. In some point he is even scared, because the white patch on its breast starts to remind him of gallows. One day he gets so angry that he wants to kill this cat too.
- murderer – In a fury he kills his wife with an axe and hides her body in the basement without any signs of remorse. He feels even happy and free (also because the second cat is gone).
- police – He had an uncontrollable desire inside of him to uncover what he has done to his wife, so he didn’t want to let the police officers go away without getting them know what happend. I would say he was not fully aware of this urge but he had it somewhere in his head.
- scream of the cat – In the end of the story he hears a scream or cry and describes it as inhuman and coming out of the hell. Maybe he is losing his senses.
- guilt – He blames his cats for the evil deeds he has done.