Gothic Elements And Guilt In "the Black Cat" And "the Tell Tale Heart" - West Valley College English 1b - Essay

1410 words - 6 pages

McGinley !1
Neal McGinley
Professor Richey
English 1B
Essay 1
A big aspect of Gothic literature is the focus on the fault of man. We see insanity and
guilt reflected in Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”.
In “The Black Cat”, subconscious guilt plays a big role in the narrator unwittingly exposing his
crime, and in the progression of the story, while in “The Tell-Tale Heart”, our narrator does not
realize that he is imagining his victim’s heartbeat, and that this auditory illusion is brought on by
his guilt. Both men try to convince the reader of their sanity. The narrator of “The Black Cat”
does this to distance himself from the guilt of his actions and to convince us he is a regular man
in unfortunate events, and not a cold-blooded murderer, whereas the narrator of “The Tell Tale
Heart” wants to convince us he is sane, to justify his crime and explain why he needed to get rid
of the “evil eye”
The narrator of “The Black Cat” uses alcohol to allay his guilt and as an excuse for the
way he treats his wife and pets. He tries to convince the reader that he is truly a good person, by
explaining that he always loved animals: “From my infancy, I was known for the docility and
humanity of my disposition” (Poe 151). Our narrator tries to convince us that alcohol made him
wicked: “Through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperence, (I) had experienced a radical
alteration for the worse” (Poe, 152). The man furthers his alcohol use to numb his feelings of
guilt for taking the cat’s eye out and then killing him (although I believe he really hanged his
McGinley !2
wife and is feeling guilt over that.) As the narrator says, “ I again plunge into excess, and soon
drowned in wine all memory of the deed.” (Poe, 153). He uses alcohol to cope, because he
knows that what he did to his cat and wife are grievous deeds. When he is drunk, he isn’t
reminded of what he did.
The story that the narrator of “The Black Cat” tells us is obviously a lie to convince us,
the reader, and ultimately himself, that he is not guilty, and that his actions were out of his
control. Susan Amper in her article, “Untold story : The lying narrator in ‘The Black Cat’”,
states that the story makes sense “ when understood as part fact and part misrepresentation
designed to minimize the narrator’s guilt …” (Amper 476). Amper also claims that there never
was a second cat. Instead, the narrator hanged his wife, and then made up the second cat to
provide a reason for why he still had a cat, after claiming he killed it, to provide justification for
his drinking problem, to provide a plausible scenario for killing his wife in order to avoid
premeditated murder charges, and to protect his pride when his “perfect murder” is discovered.
He tries to convince us, and himself, that it was not his guilt that made him get caught, but
instead the cat revealing his crime. According to Amper, “The narrator is a man at war with

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