Edgar Allan Poe's Short Stories  Term Paper

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Their marriage and mutual love of animals makes this a situation that bespeaks long lasting happiness. One of the family pet is a black cat that is fairly large and the man's favorite. This cat is well liked, and unlike the disposition of cats that is aloof and independent, this cat follows his master wherever he goes, even out doors. The wife based on some superstitions has her misgivings about the cat, Pluto, believing that all black cats are actually witches in disguise. Disabused of this notion by her husband and with her general love for all animals, she immediately puts aside her fears.

It is possible that Poe here hints at his own alcoholism and indirectly blames it on witchcraft that comes from the black cat, though the role of the cat is one of an innocent animal. As the protagonist slowly sinks into alcoholism, he becomes ill tempered and ill mannered. He is insensitive to the feelings of his wife. He becomes cruel to his animals and also beats his wife. In the beginning however, Pluto is not singled out for this cruelty. He alone retained the position of favorite pet. But eventually, the man became so far removed from his natural character that even Pluto began to bear the brunt of his drunkenness and cruelty.

Finally, the depravity of the man turns into some sort of sadistic ritual. On being bitten, after he has worried the cat, he takes a knife and enucleated the cat. Pluto eventually recovered from having his eye taken out, but was still extremely fearful of the man. Though initially remorseful of what he has done, the man soon resumes his old ways. He seeks more and more perverse ways to torture those around him. And one day, he finally hangs the cat from the limb of a tree in his yard. On that very same night a fire that destroys the man's house. The man and his wife escape but the house is destroyed. The man attributed his saving to a wall that had been recently plastered. Indeed, this was one of the few parts of the house that remained standing. The firefighters and neighbors eventually found to their horror that on the man's bedroom wall is permanently etched a figure of a hanging cat.

The man attributes this to one of the neighbors having cut down the cat and flung it into the burning house where its imprint was burned into the wall.

The man and his wife, now significantly impoverished live in the basement of the house (the one part that remained intact). For a few months, the image of the hanging cat on his wall haunts the man and he changes his ways, somewhat. But this is only because of the shock of recent events. He is soon back to his own ways. During one of his sojourns to a pub he sees a black cat, not unlike Pluto, but with some white markings on his chest. Finding no owner and the animal having endeared itself to him, the man decides to make the cat his new pet. And for a while things are alright. But the hatred for the cat begins to rise for the man believes that the new cat came into his life to create guilt for the murder of Pluto. The man realizes that there are supernatural aspects to the cat. The white markings eventually metamorphose into a pattern that appears like the gallows. He becomes completely unhinged. He chases the cat, determined to kill it. But his wife intervenes; and, in a fit of passion he strikes his wife in the head with the axe, killing her instantly. By this time, the man's passions are so inflamed and his depravity is so far gone that his only thought is how to get rid of his wife's body. He decides to wall the body up into the cellar. With great pains he accomplishes this, so that there is no evidence of any crime having taken place.

There is no guilt and no remorse. For the first time, the protagonist sleeps well. There is of course, also, no sign of the cat and he believes that the cat has escaped from fear. Four days later, the police arrive to check on the man's house. He is so confident that the police will not discover any evidence of the crime that he becomes arrogant. He proclaims that the house is constructed very well. In demonstrating how well, he pounds the walls of the cellar. However, he accidentally he also beats against the newly constructed wall where his wife is entombed and he hears a distressing wail from within the walls. Terrified, the man has no idea how such a thing could come to pass. The police lose no time in breaking apart the walls where they find the decaying corpse of the wife -- and the cat. The cat was somehow entombed with the wife and the beating against the wall had caused to respond in that terrifying wail.

Thus, the man was punished for his crimes. There is redemption (posthumously, however) for the long-suffering wife who has sought nothing more than to protect their pets against her husband's depravity and had paid for it with her life.

The next story, the Tell-Tale Heart, is based on an actual event that occurred in 1830 in Danvers, Massachusetts.

A young man, the teller of the tale kills an old man, an old man with whom he lives. The reader is not given to understand what the relationship between the old man and young man might be. Whether the young man is a boarder in the old man's house or whether they had some familial relationship. As the narrative unfolds, since the house purportedly belongs to both of them, the reader also does not know to whom the house belongs. Both men share a very strong bond of love. And indeed, the young man who tells the story indicates that he is one of nervous disposition, that he fears borders on the insane. In reading the story, one might aver that the young man might be a paranoid schizophrenic.

While he loves the older man, the young man remains fixated on one of the eyes of the older man. He describes the eyes as "one of a vulture -- a pale blue eye, with a film over it" (Poe, 45). The young man is terrified of the eye; why, we don't really know. The fear is clearly irrational. But he believes that this eye stores all the evil that has or might befall him. Therefore he decides to kill the old man, so that the eye might not portend or cause any harm to him.

The murder is meticulously planned. Every night, for a week, before the murder actually occurs, the young man tiptoes to the older man's room. Near the door, he shades the lamp that it might not wake up the old man. Then he unlatches the door and peers in -- perhaps to gauge the sleeping habits of the old man. This exercise is performed with such deliberation so as to not wake up the old man that the young man takes up to an hour moving his head inch by inch from out side the door to inside the man's room. Once his head is inside the room, he removes the shade carefully so that only a sliver of light is aimed directly at the old man's eye. But while asleep, this eye is always closed. Since the young man really only hates the eye and what it may or may not represent but bears no ill-will towards the older man, he cannot bring himself to kill the old man.

On the appointed night, the young man makes a mistake. While opening the door, the latch comes unfastened a little too quickly. The resulting noise causes the man to become wide awake. The old man becomes cautious, he tries to remind himself that his fears are unfounded -- the noise probably came from a mouse or a cricket. The young man waits patiently, holding his position at the door. At length, when he shines the light on the old man, it falls straight on the eye, which for the first time at that hour is open. The paranoia sets in again. The young man still cannot bring himself to do anything. Eventually, while waiting, the young man begins to hear the muffled sound which he construes as that of the man's beating heart. The sound of the heart beat continues to increase and all the while the eye remains open. The young man can control himself no longer: with a shriek, he leaps upon the old man, drags him to the group, and overturns the bed on top of him stifling him and killing him. Later, well satisfied, he cuts off the man's head and limbs (in a tub so that the…

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