Throughout the opening paragraph of “The Black Cat,” the reader is introduced to a narrator who, because of his grotesque actions, has become mentally deranged and very untrustworthy, ” . . . my very senses reject their own evidence.”
The narration of this story is in the first person, which would lead you to believe the narrator could be trusted to relate to you the true events of the story, but this is false. The narrator in this story is unreliable due to his horrid state of mind and body.
The narrator cannot be relied upon to show the reader the true events of the story, these events have to be interpreted and the reader must come to his own conclusion as to what really happened.
The reader is shown in the opening paragraph that he should not trust the narrator to deliver the true events of the story. The narrator admits throughout the story that his bad habits, namely alcoholism, lead to his irrational state of mind. His alcoholism was the root of his downfall.
While intoxicated, the narrator mutilated his favorite pet, Pluto, causing the cat to become terrified of his master. The alienation of his cat gave the narrator even more cause to become mentally unstable.
The hanging of his cat shows how the narrator has become obsessed with doing evil things for the sake of their evilness. This evilness is linked to his alcoholism.
The narrator was most-likely in a drunken state when he hung his cat, which only infuriated his temper. This separation of friends had a huge effect on the narrator’s deadly temper. His temper is such that anything that slightly annoyed him caused him to go into fits of rage.
The fits of rage which occupy the narrator for much of the story are all linked to his pet cats. He points out that he was an animal lover in his younger days and the feeling was carried through into his maturity. His love for animals ended here.
His alcoholism had driven him to avoid his animals or, when he encountered them, to physically harm them for the reason that they were there. The narrator’s pet cats were the exceptions. He held his temper back from his cats because of his love for them. This feeling disappears after time and the cats become the subject of his worst fits of rage.
After each violent act upon his cats, the narrator did feel remorse at his actions. This feeling also disappears over time and, as it disappeared, his rage grew. The narrator seems to have had the feeling that they (the animals) must pay for what they have done.
Tiny scratches upon the narrator’s hand necessitated Pluto losing an eye. He also seems to be upset that his cats love him and want to be around him. He felt he should be the one to love them and they should not be allowed to love.
This is shown through his annoyance at their constant presence around him. He must be the one in control, and be able to make other things do what he wants.
The fits of rage which he encountered are finally brought to a culmination when his wife stops his attempted murder of their new cat. The narrator is so mad at his wife that he takes the worst possible action. He kills her. The murder of his wife seems to be the real end for the narrator. He feels little guilt for his actions, “The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me little.” The reason for his lack of guilt is that he does not believe he has done anything wrong. His conscience has become so deteriorated that nothing seems to affect him anymore.
When an outsider looks at the events of the story, it is obvious that the narrator is untrustworthy. Alcoholism, which affects the narrator for much of his adult life can be seen as the root of his problems. The alcoholism leads to other problems in his life, such as his horrible fits of rage, and the utter disliking of his once prized pets.
In his mentally deranged state, the narrator cannot be trusted to deliver the true events of the story. Therefore the reader must take it upon himself to interpret the events of the story and come up with his own conclusion as to what really happened, and why they happened.
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