Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Black Cat, adapted from a tale by Edgar Allan Poe.

The Black Cat.

“Although Edgar Allan Poe was not Irish I thought I’d include this as a little bit of a change to my normal posts. It’s quite gruesome but also strangely fascinating in its message.”

An interesting story from the pen of Edgar Allan Poe. It tells the story using a first-person narrative. The man (the narrator) explains that he has always loved animals and that he and his wife have several pets including a large black cat called Pluto.

The cat and the man love each other and are great friends. However, this all changes as the man takes to the drink, eventually becoming an alcoholic. One night, he comes home from the pub drunk as a lord and tries to stroke the cat; the cat however avoids him like the plague and delivers a bite to his hand in its attempt to free itself. In a fit of anger he pulls a pen-knife out of his pocket, and gouges out one of the cats eyes.

Well you can imagine, from that moment onwards the cat wants nothing to do with your man and runs away in terror whenever he hears him approaching. At first, the man is extremely remorseful, regrets his cruelty and tries in vain to make it up with the cat. The cat however, refuses to have anything to do with him, is it any wonder? Over time this begins to annoy him and he begins to feel really irritated with the cat until eventually this feeling of irritation turns into hatred. One morning he grabs the cat, takes it out into the garden and hangs it from a tree and there it slowly dies.

That same night, his house mysteriously catches fire and he, his wife and their servant are forced to flee. The next day, the man returns to the ruined house and he finds imprinted on the only wall that had survived the fire, the figure of a gigantic cat, hanging by its neck from a rope.

At first, the image terrifies the man but he gradually convinces himself that someone seeing the fire had thrown the dead cat through a bedroom window in order to wake them up and in doing so saved their lives. The man begins to miss Pluto and sometime later while drinking in the pub he sees a cat that is the image of Pluto. It is the same size and colour and is even missing an eye. The only difference is a large white patch on the cat’s chest. The man decides to take the cat home with him but his feelings of friendship for the cat slowly begin to change to feelings of hatred and fear. He watches as over time the white patch of fur begins to change shape; it begins to take the shape of a gallows.

One day the man and his wife are visiting the cellar of their new home, don’t ask me why for I’ve no idea, the cat gets under the man’s feet and nearly succeeds in tripping him down the stairs. In a fit of rage, he grabs an axe that lies nearby and tries to kill the cat but is prevented from doing so by his wife. Enraged at her interference he turns on her, striking her with the axe he kills her.

He now needs to hide her body; he decides to remove some bricks from a protruding wall and place her body within the wall and repairs the hole. Eventually the wife is missed and the police arrive at the house to investigate her disappearance however they find nothing amiss and he is allowed to carry on with his life. He notices that the cat has gone missing but assumes it has just run off, well you would wouldn’t you?

The police carry on with their investigation and as there are no other leads they return to the house, the last place the wife was seen. They carry out another search but still find nothing. Before they leave they decide to have one last look in the cellar, the husband goes with them, and still they find nothing.

The husband now completely confident of his safety comments on how sturdy these old houses are and gives a rap on the wall with his walking stick, the wall behind which his wife’s body is interred. All of a sudden a wailing sound fills the room; it is the sound of a cat, coming from within the wall. The police begin to tear down the wall and discover the corpse of the missing wife, and on her head, to the absolute horror of the husband is the screeching black cat. He lets out a wail “I walled the monster up within the tomb”.

He was to receive the same treatment he meted out to Pluto. The hangman waits.

Adapted from the story of The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar Allan Poe used this story as a poignant reminder of the dangers of alcoholism and how drinking to excess can have an adverse affect upon a person’s behaviour.

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