Evil - By Edgar Alan Poe


Born in 1809, Edgar Alan Poe is considered by many critics and fans of literature to be one of the greatest writers of all time. He was born into a strict religious environment. His father constantly abused him. His family was considered very dysfunctional, which is part of the reason his stories always have an evil tint to them (Basuray). Almost every one of Poe's stories tend to have a dark and macabre feel to them. His beliefs on God and morals also had much to do with the way he wrote. He did not attend church or believe his stories should carry some high moral purpose. He believed that the church and morals in stories were just man's way of trying to interpret what God wanted. He believed that his critics, including members of the church, had no right to tell him how they should live. This did not mean that he did not believe that people should do evil deeds and not get punished. Poe's belief was that the worst punishment came not from outside the person but from within a person's own subconscious thoughts (Grantz). Many of Poe's characters commit unspeakable evil acts, which are then counterbalanced by their own subconscious need to be free of the evil deeds that they have committed.

The first story we will examine is "The Black Cat". This story first appeared in the United States Saturday Post (The Saturday Evening Post) on August 19, 1843 (Womak). The story opens with the narrator deciding to record the events that led him to murder his wife and the cat as he awaits his execution the next day. The narrator is first described as a gentle, loving man who would never hurt a fly. He has a pet cat that he loves more than anything in the world. After some years, the narrator develops a drinking problem and starts to become irritable and violent, not only to people but also to his pets. Late one night after drinking excessively at the bar, the man returns home. Upon the man's arrival at the house, Pluto, the cat tries to avoid him most likely because his now violent temper. The man grabs Pluto, which startles the cat who reacts by biting the man's hand. The man was so enraged by the cat's reaction that he pulls out his penknife and cuts the cat's eye out. The gravity of what he has done to his favorite pet weighed on his mind over the next few days. He decides to go ahead and kill the cat because he can not bear to look at the one-eyed monstrosity he had created, so he hung the poor animal. The same night, following the cat's hanging, while everyone slept the man's house caught on fire. The whole house burned down except for one wall that had a burn mark on it. The mark on the wall looked exactly like a cat being hung with a noose around its neck. He feels very remorseful over what he has done and misses his cat very much. One night at the bar, he spots a cat that looks exactly like his old cat even down to the missing eye. The only difference between the cats' is the new one has a white patch of fur where Pluto had none. He takes the animal home with him that night. His wife is quickly enamored of the animal and completely falls in love with the cat. Over time, the missing eye of the new cat starts to drive the man crazy and he wishes to be rid of the animal. He does not want to remember what he did to Pluto nor does he want to remember the image burnt into the wall after the fire, but both of these things keep him from doing anything to the cat. One night the man, no longer able to deal with his own thoughts and feelings, goes down stairs and gets the axe to finally kill the animal. His wife sees what is going on and tries to stop him. This only enrages the man even further, and he drives the axe into his wife's head. Shortly after the act, he realizes what his has done and decides he must get rid of the body. After much debate and many different