Manipulation In The Black Cat

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At first glance, it is easy to read Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Black Cat,” at its face value and assume the narrator is telling the truth. However, a different story emerges once the point of view of the narrator is understood. Since the story is narrated in first person, the unreliability of the narrator heightens since the reader receives a limited perspective, enabling the narrator to manipulate the events of the story. This manipulation is accomplished through the use and effects of time. Time not only increases the narrator’s unreliability, but is used by the narrator to manipulate the reader’s perception of events and thus minimizes the extent to which the reader can effectively judge the truth. Finally, the narrator’s use of…show more content…
Since only one perspective is shared, there is limited knowledge, enabling the narrator the ability to manipulate the events of the story in the way he thinks is best. The reader must therefore read with some degree of skepticism and assume that the narrator is not telling the full truth. “The Black Cat” begins by the narrator stating that, “Mad indeed would I be to expect [belief], in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad I am not – and very surely do I not dream” (Poe 17). Even as the story begins, the narrator is effectively contradicting the reliability of the story he is penning. Susan Amper commented on this when she stated, “If the man is neither mad nor mistaken, and yet is not to be believed, it can only be that he is lying” (Amper 476). Thus, from the outset, judging the truth is difficult due to the point of view and causes the reliability of the story to be incredibly…show more content…
The climax of the story, arguably more climactic than finding the body at the end, occurred when Pluto was murdered. If the narrator had only killed Pluto at that point in the story, there would not be so much emphasis and significance on Pluto’s death. One explanation of the emphasis on Pluto’s death is that Pluto, in fact, becomes a symbol for his wife. If this is true, it indicates that the narrator murdered his wife instead of Pluto at that point in the story. Amper agrees with this hypothesis when she writes, “the narrator must have killed his wife at the time he says he killed Pluto” (Amper 478). Further evidencing the narrator’s manipulation of the plot through the use of time occurs when the wife’s body was found at the end of the story. Once the body was discovered, the narrator adds, “[the body was] already greatly decayed and clotted with gore” (Poe 25). This slip of the tongue causes the reader to question the validity of the narrator’s supposed murder of his wife. If only three days had passed since the wife’s supposed accidental murder on the cellar steps, the body would hardly have begun to decompose, let alone be ‘greatly decayed,’ therefore indicating the wife was murdered much earlier in the story, pointing to when Pluto died. Thus, it can be seen that the narrator’s manipulation of time results in a perception of
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