“Addiction is a special kind of hell. It takes the soul of the addict and breaks the hearts of everyone who loves them.” ‘The Black Cat’ is a short story, written by Edgar Allan Poe and was about a man that struggled with an alcohol addiction. This addiction caused him to act out in irrational ways, caused his emotions to change and become threatening towards the individuals around him. The man had a great love for animals, he owned a black cat which he adored. However, through the presence of alcohol, the cat started to annoy the man and this was when his inner demons came out. These demons caused the man to make decisions that he soon realised were wrong, however, he did not attempt to fix his mistakes. Unfortunately, he only made things worse. Therefore, his strong emotional responses can be classified as an element of gothic fiction used in this short story, as well as his contrasting qualities towards the important people and animals in his life.
The protagonist of this story clearly had contrasting qualities because for years he had loved the cat, it was his closest friend. Until “one night, returning home much intoxicated…the cat avoided my presence. I seized him” His emotions had been heightened and he was offended that the cat was not giving him the attention he desires. Pluto, the cat, carried on annoying the man so he reacted in a careless way. The man wanted to punish and injure the cat and did this by gauging his eye out. Going from admiring and adoring Pluto to then believing that “all black cats were witches in disguise”.Thus proving that the alcohol influenced his behaviour and change in perception, alcohol brings out different parts to people they never knew existed. Once the man sobered up, he felt great guilt and regret. His actions haunted him, leading the man into a worse situation and mindset. Mentally, the man was not stable enough for this, he did not know how to deal with his actions. Reaching for ideas going around his head, he decided to do what he thought was easiest in order to forget about what he had done and this was to kill his cat. Hatred and aggression became his new way to deal with mistakes and this was triggered by his overuse of alcohol. He felt remorse for what he did, yet that didn’t change the fact that he acted violently. Alcohol had caused the man to hurt his cat initially but he was still having to live with his actions every day, you cannot eliminate the past. This story was hard to read because it brought up an almost unspoken topic in society, yet a very realistic one, alcoholism. Like any drug, alcohol can be very dangerous and unpredictable. Your sense of control disappears when under the influence of alcohol, creating a threat to the ones around you. This was displayed in the story through his sudden hatred of Pluto and how the man was unsure of how to move past the one night’s mistake. Fear came over me when the man “took from my waistcoat-pocket a penknife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket!” The image of this was gruesome and unpleasant, creating an uncomfortable feeling for the reader. This story made me angry, too because I wanted to protect the cat, it was not his fault that the man became aggressive. Pluto did not deserve what happened to him. It was then when I realised that ‘The Black Cat’ had inspired me, inspired me to educate others about this worrying topic. In this day and age, we like to disregard alcohol for being a drug, it is seen as acceptable and normal, thus making it even more dangerous. Alcohol affected the man in the story the same way it could anybody else, he realised that “I knew myself no longer”.
Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, ‘The Black Cat’, showed many elements of gothic fiction, as well as illustrated important messages about society. The messages about the effects of alcohol are vital for teenagers. It is up to our generation to be aware of the problem, act accordingly and decrease the statistics there is today involving the consumption of the drug. The story not only represents what could happen to someone who is in a similar position regarding alcohol but it also educates people on what situations to avoid. Addiction’s cause just as much harm to the people close to the victim than they do themselves. This was seen through the harm to Pluto, he was innocent but found himself in a negative environment. By reading this gothic fiction tale, you have the opportunity to create a better future. Just one decision, one action, can change the world as you know it.