I love cats! One of my best friends at school read the short story, "The Black Cat," by Edgar Allen Poe, over holiday break and recommended it to me because she knows I love to read anything about cats. Although its an incredibly morbid story, I immediately fell in love with the fascinating writing style of Poe, inspiring me to purchase the "Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe" book. After reading multiple stories, I noticed similarities between "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" and decided to further analyze their recurring themes. The work of Poe has provided me with a deeper appreciation for literature and allowed me to further enhance my writing skills. He is now one of my favorite authors.
"The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" are two of Edgar Allen Poe's most morbid, yet most captivating short stories. Each first person narrative tells the story of the main characters and the events that caused them to succumb to murder. Although fictional, Poe succeeds in crafting two narratives so realistic that it inflicts fear and horror to the reader. The stories are similar yet different in many ways and these qualities allow the reader to develop a new perspective and deeper understanding of the true meaning of insanity.
In both "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart," the main characters open the narratives by convincing the reader he is not mad. The narrator then proceeds to explain why this is the case, and the story provides justification for his actions. The narrators believe their mental health is critical information for the reader to grasp, causing the reader to wonder if they are really crazy after all. The murder victims of both stories share similar characteristics, for instance, the victims' eye is an important aspect of both. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," the entire purpose of killing the old man was to rid the narrator of his cloudy blue vulture eye. The narrator of "The Black Cat" was also disturbed by eyes as he gouged out his own cat's eye and his new cat possessed an eye deformity. The eye is very significant as it is a key factor that leads the narrator into murder. The murderers also shared very personal, intimate relationships with their victims. The narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" repeatedly expressed his love for the old man, and the narrator of "The Black Cat" killed his beloved wife and two favorite pets. It was interesting to discover that the thing the two narrators loved most was their object of affection, yet it became the thing they decided to kill.
Both stories share many differences as well. For instance, the narrator of "The Black Cat" repeatedly mentioned his initial remorse for his actions. However in "The Tell-Tale Heart" the narrator felt little to no remorse - the death of the old man left him unaffected. The personality differences between the two characters was important as well as interesting to note because it shows the contrasting natures of the two. Also, the despicable actions of "The Black Cat" were brought on by the corruption of alcohol, explaining the reasoning behind his madness. The narrator did not intentionally hurt his pets, however it was the result of his alcoholism. Meanwhile, the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" possessed no sickness or disease; his motive to kill was merely his own desire. It is clear that although the narrators of both stories had similar minds and actions, there were differences that separated them as well.
Poe establishes an atmosphere of fear and horror by using descriptive words to depict images of death and suffering. The excessive amount of dark and morbid language is necessary for a story that revolves around character death. A large portion of the story focuses on the plotting, planning, and escalating events that led to the murder, and this provides the reader with suspense and excitement. The stories are written as first person narrators which provides the reader insight to the characters' exact thought and ideas. However, first person narrators are not always reliable because it creates a biased story. The stories are only told from one perspective and this affects the reader's reception because it is one-sided.
It is clear that "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart were two exceptional yet horrific stories. These stories shared many similarities and differences and these examples shape the reader's understanding of insanity. Although initially I was inclined to assume the narrators were mad and crazy, analyzing the stories provided me with new insight to their state of mental health. Despite the insane actions that took place, I realized that the narrators themselves were not insane. The reasons behind the characters' actions, although extreme, were understandable and justifiable. Therefore it is important to understand the motives and reasoning that explains why people do the things they do before immediately assuming the worst.