Begins "Should my early life seem Baltimore Saturday Visiter. Godey's Lady's Book. Southern Literary Messenger. Republished as "To F——s S. O——d" in . Originally published as "Ballad" . To Kate Carol ". American Review: A Whig Journal. Incomplete . Incomplete . S—— ". Sartain's Union Magazine.
The Black Cat (short story)
The Flag of Our Union. Sold before Poe's death but published posthumously . Sold before Poe's death but published posthumously . First published anonymously with the subtitle "A Tale in Imitation of the German" . Originally "The Duke of l'Omelette" . Originally "A Decided Loss" . Originally "The Bargain Lost" . Originally "The Visionary", published anonymously .
Subtitle: "A Tale" .
Edgar Allan Poe
Poe targeted some of the most famous writers in the country; one of his victims was the anthologist and editor Rufus Griswold. At the age of twenty-seven, Poe brought Maria and Virginia Clemm to Richmond and married Virginia, who was not yet fourteen.
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The marriage proved a happy one but money was always tight. Dissatisfied with his low pay and lack of editorial control at the Messenger , Poe moved to New York City and to Philadelphia a year later, where he wrote for a number of different magazines. In spite of his growing fame, Poe was still barely able to make a living.
For the publication of his first book of short stories, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque , he was paid with twenty-five copies of his book. He would soon become a champion for the cause of higher wages for writers as well as for an international copyright law. To change the face of the magazine industry, he proposed starting his own journal, but he failed to find the necessary funding. He was again living in New York City and was now famous enough to draw large crowds to his lectures—he also began demanding better pay for his work.
He published two books that year, and briefly lived his dream of running his own magazine when he bought out the owners of the Broadway Journal. At this time he moved to a tiny cottage in the country. It was there, in the winter of , that Virginia died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four. Her death devastated Poe and left him unable to write for months. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of perverseness. That very night his house mysteriously catches fire, forcing the narrator, his wife and their servant to flee the premises.
The next day, the narrator returns to the ruins of his home to find, imprinted on the single wall that survived the fire, the apparition of a gigantic cat with a rope around the animal's neck. At first, this image deeply disturbs the narrator, but gradually he determines a logical explanation for it; someone outside had cut the cat from the tree and thrown its corpse into the bedroom to wake him during the fire.
The narrator begins to miss Pluto and hate himself for his actions, feeling guilty.
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Some time later, he finds a similar cat in a tavern. It is the same size and color as the original and is even missing an eye. The only difference is a large white patch on the animal's chest. The narrator takes it home, but soon begins to fear and loathe the creature, due to the fact that it amplifies his feeling of guilt.
After a time, the white patch of fur begins to take shape and, much to the narrator's horror, forms the shape of the gallows. This terrifies and angers him more, and he avoids the cat whenever possible. Then, one day when the narrator and his wife are visiting the cellar in their new home, the cat gets under its master's feet and nearly trips him down the stairs. His rage amplified by alcohol , the man grabs an axe and tries to kill the cat but is stopped by his wife. Being unable to take out his drunken fury on the cat, he accidentally kills his wife instead.
To conceal her body he removes bricks from a protrusion in the wall, places her body there, and repairs the hole. A few days later, when the police show up at the house to investigate the wife's disappearance, they find nothing and the narrator goes free. The cat, which he intended to kill as well, has also gone missing.
This grants him the freedom to sleep, even with the burden of murder. On the last day of the investigation, the narrator accompanies the police into the cellar. They still find nothing significant. Then, completely confident in his own safety, the narrator comments on the sturdiness of the building and raps upon the wall he had built around his wife's body. A loud, inhuman wailing sound fills the room. The alarmed police tear down the wall and find the wife's corpse.
Sitting on the corpse's rotting head, to the utter horror of the narrator, is the screeching black cat.
The terrified narrator is immediately shattered completely by this reminder of his crime, which he had believed to be safe from discovery, and the appearance of the cat. As he words it: "I had walled the monster up within the tomb! At the time, the publication was using the temporary title United States Saturday Post.
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In the beginning of the tale, the narrator says the reader would be "mad indeed" if the reader should expect a reader to believe the story, implying that he has already been accused of madness.