What Goes Around Comes Around
In his story The Black Cat, Edgar Allan Poe dramatizes his experience with madness,
and challenges the readers suspension of disbelief by using imagery in describing the plot and
characters. Poe uses foreshadowing to describe the scenes of sanity versus insanity. He writes for
the most wild yet homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor illicit belief. Yet
mad I am not- and surely do I not dream, alerts the reader about a forthcoming story that will test
the boundaries of reality and fiction. The author asserts his belief of the activities described in the
story when he states to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburden my soul(80).
Poe describes his affectionate temperament of his character when he writes my
tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions(80). He
also characterizes his animal friends as unselfish and their love as self-sacrificing illustrating
to the readers his devotion to them for their companionship. The author uses foreshadowing in the
statement we had birds, goldfish, a fine dog, a rabbit, a small monkey, and a cat(80). The use
of italics hints to the reader of upcoming events about the cat that peaks interest and anticipation.
Poe also describes a touch foreshadowing and suspension of disbelief when he illustrates his
wives response to the cat when he writes all black cats are witches in disguise, not that she was
ever serious upon this point-and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than it happened,
just now, to be remembered(80).
Poe expresses his early attachment to the cat and dramatizes the character changes he
experiences when he writes our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which
my general temperament and character-through instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance-had (I
blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse(81). He warns the reader of
new events in a cynical tone and implies the beginning of the madness he denies. Poe first
illustrates this madness when he uses imagery to describe the brutal scene with the cat when he
writes I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the
throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket!
The author describes his emotional and physical state of being during the unthinkable act
as I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity(81). He describes the morning
aftereffect of his actions when he states when reason returned with the morning-when I had slept
off the fumes of the nights debauch-I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for
the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocable feeling, and the
soul remained untouched(81). Now Poe implies to the readers that he has truly crossed over into
madness by brutally attacking the animal and feeling little or no remorse.
Next Poe dramatizes his change in character even further when he writes and then came,
as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS,(81) which once
again alerts the reader of new events so shocking that reading forward becomes an essentiality.
The author illustrates a scene so outrageous that the reader has to go beyond the suspension of
disbelief they have agreed to participate in. He writes One morning, in cold blood, I slipped a
noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree;-hung it with tears streaming from my eyes,
and with the bitterest remorse at my heart;-hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and
because I felt it had given me no reason of offense;-hung it because I knew that in so I was
committing a sin-a deadly sin that would jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it-if such a thing
were possible- even beyond the reach of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God(81-82).
Now the reader has crossed over the line of reality versus fiction. The author continues to
illustrate the inconceivable story when he describes the scene after the fire that destroyed every
part of the house except the one wall that was still standing. Poe writes I approached and saw, as
if graven in bas-relief upon the white surface the figure of a gigantic cat and there was a rope
around the animals neck,(82) leading the readers to join the madness and believe that this was the
same cat that Poe had savagely destroyed earlier that same day.
The author describes his need to replace the animal in order to feel peace and after doing
so, he finds himself once again feeling a abhorrence toward the animal. He writes but
gradually-very gradually- I came to look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently
from its odious presence, as from the breath of a pestance(83). Poe uses imagery to describes his
disgust with the cat when he states that like Pluto, it also had been deprived of one of its
eyes,(83) he now wanted to destroy this animal as well. Poe illustrates the change of character he
has experience since the beginning of the story only now he has gone beyond the madness that has
consumed him many times. He writes evil thoughts becomes my sole intimates-the darkest and
most evil of thoughts(84).
The author uses more imagery when he writes the final abominable act of evil. Poe
confesses to the reader about the murder of his wife when he states goaded by the interference
into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the ax in her
brain(84). He explains how he disposes of the body in detail and describes the relief he feels
when he writes I soundly and tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder upon my
soul(85). Poe informs the reader of his little remorse when he states my happiness was supreme,
and the guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little(85).
The author leads the reader to the final plateau of suspension when he dramatizes the
conclusion of the story. He explains the sounds he heard in detail when the mystery unfolds
regarding the missing cat he had not seen or heard from since the murder. He writes like the
sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly
anomalous and inhuman-a howl-a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might
have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the damned in their agony and the
demons that exult in the damnation(85). Poes use of descriptive details allows the reader to feel
the horrifying experience of a man who believed he was free from the evil of madness. Poe ends
the story after utilizing every inch of suspension of disbelief the reader can afford. He sums up the
plot of the story when he writes the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and
whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman, (85) implying that the cat had induced
the same torture on him that he had brought on the first cat.