Point of view is a very important aspect of The Black Cat. The main character tells the story to the reader from his first person point of view. You have a good feel for the story because you have the first person narration. As you read into the story it comes apparent however that the narrator telling the story is not a reliable interpretation of the details around him. You have a good feel for his emotions and the events of the story, but the narrators opinions are so far out that you are forced to wonder just what of the story is the askew interpretation of a madman and what is the reality of the situation.
The first person narration of the story plays an integral part in the reader’s level of understanding of the main character’s madness, as well as the unfolding of plot of the story. The story revolves around a man and his cat that loves him very devoutly. At the start of the story he is very fond of his loving companion the cat, Pluto. The cat’s love for his master eventually becomes Pluto’s demise. The cat would follow its master’s every move. If the narrator moved the cat was at his feet, if he sat Pluto would clamor to his lap.
This after a while began to enrage the narrator. He soon found himself becoming very irritable towards Pluto and his other pets. One night he came home “much intoxicated” and he grabbed Pluto. Pluto bit his hand and this sent him into a rage. “The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame”(Poe 103). At this point he seems to have lost it. This description is not that of someone of sane mindset.
His soul taking flight from his body appears to be symbolic for the loss of his rational thought. The fury of a demon gives you the imagery of something not human. Poe takes every opportunity to use the narrator, and the point of view, to give you insight into the mind of the madman. He uses eloquent imagery and symbolism to further your understanding of the main character’s rational. After this passage the narrator then with a penknife cuts out one of the cat’s eyes. This certainly isn’t the act of someone who is of sane mind.
Edgar Allen Poe makes the narrator of his story be someone not of a sane mind for good reason. How could you possibly know the true madness of the man without knowing what his thoughts were? His actions alone could leave things to be debated. When you know his thoughts it becomes apparent that he truly has delusions of his surroundings and is out of touch with reality somewhat. When the police searched the house for any sign of the wife, and they entered the cellar the narrator wasn’t in the least nervous or felt any guilt for the slaying of his wife.
You can easily see the madness of the narrator when Poe describes his emotions first hand. “I quivered not a muscle. My heart beat calmly as one who slumbers in innocence” (107). Poe compares the narrator’s level of anxiety to someone slumbering in innocence! Surely someone who murdered his own wife with an ax would feel some guilt. That is unless, of course, if that person was mad. Knowing the thoughts of the main character furthers your true understanding of his madness.
The main character murdered his wife, but the ability of him not to feel any remorse for it makes him mad, and Poe uses point of view to display this lack of remorse, and madness, to the reader. The thing above all that stands out to show you that this man, the narrator, is sick was the fact that he was not only feeling no guilt at the horrible murder of his wife, but that he was feeling exuberated at the fact that he had out witted the police. “The glee at my heart was too strong to be restrained.
I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, and to render doubly sure their assurance of my guiltlessness”(107). Poe even goes as far to use the word “guiltlessness” in the description of the narrator’s thoughts. He truly felt no remorse for the ghastly deed he did. This truly shows that both the narrator was mad, and that Poe wanted him to be displayed that way to the reader. Poe uses a narrator who is of sick mind, to further make the story more interesting. It gives you insight into the mind of a murderous madman.
Think what this story would be like if, possibly it was told from the perspective of one of the policemen, or from a neighbor who told the story of the mad murder. You wouldn’t have the same kind of insight into the real mentality and thought process of the madman, as you do when the narrator is in fact the madman himself. You wouldn’t be able to see for yourself the madness in the man through his thoughts. You can see the transformation of the thoughts of the narrator change through the story, from someone who has some issues, to a complete madman who feels no remorse.
When he cuts out one of Pluto’s eyes he does it drunk. This shows that he has the madness in him, but it requires the alcohol for the madness to be truly seen. The morning after he does at this point in the story feel some remorse. “When reasoning had returned with the morning – when I had slept off the fumes of the night’s debauch – I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty”(Poe 103). But even here you see that the narrator, looking back and telling the story is mad.
Poe has the narrator say, “had been guilty” which implies that he somehow is no longer guilty. Only a madman could consider himself to be no longer guilty of something like that. However at this point the character in the story feels remorse and is not completely mad. The point where he really goes off the deep end is after he kills Pluto. Poe describes his deed as being beyond the forgiveness of the “Most Merciful and Most Terrible God”(104). In this description of the narrator’s thoughts you see that he now feels that he is an absolutely horrible person.
The main character believes that even God can’t forgive him. The God who can forgive most anything can not forgive this act. This again is another description of the main character’s thoughts that brings you into his mind. The description of not being able to be forgiven, even by God, shows that he feels very deep remorse for killing the cat at this point of the story, or at the very least that he can see the wrong in his action. This deep remorse and feeling of no forgiveness for it, leads to the complete callus that he has at the end of the story.
The first person narration of this story gives you deep, important insight into the mind of the main character. His mad thoughts are displayed right before you. The point of view plays an integral role in feeding the story to the reader. You learn more and more about the main character through his thoughts and emotions that are displayed to you through Poe’s very descriptive style. This point of view makes the story very interesting and holds the reader’s attention to the story. You always want to know more about the mad character.