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The Black Cat

The Black Cat research paper due and don’t know how to start it? How about like this?

“The Black Cat”, written by Edgar Allen Poe, has been called “one of the most powerful of Poe’s stories” with a horrific element that just barely “stops short of the wavering line of disgust”.  Originally published in 1843 in the United States Saturday Post (later called The Saturday Evening Post), this Gothic tale is perhaps also one of Poe’s most extensively analyzed pieces.  Much diversity is seen in the interpretations offered.  The black cats (if one accepts the debatable premise that there were, in fact, two) are variously conceptualized as symbolic of the narrator’s wife, manifesting the supernatural, representing the narrator’s “intemperance and lost docility”, and reflecting some rapidly diminishing noble facet of the tale-teller’s character or conscience.  The Black CatThe narrator himself is described by various analysts as insane, a liar, and a failure as a human being.  There has been much disagreement regarding whether certain elements of the story reflect the murderer’s hallucinations or, again, some supernatural occurrence.  Thus, there is no dearth of opinions regarding what Poe intended to convey, both elementally and symbolically, in “The Black Cat.”

The title of the short story notwithstanding, the unnamed narrator is clearly the most important and most complex character in “The Black Cat.”  After consideration of the many character portraits available, this reader concludes that previous analysis may have exposed one or another element of the true nature of the narrator’s identity and motivation.  However, none has achieved a comprehensive disclosure of this murderer’s global personality in the psychological sense of that term.  The present analysis will attempt a synthesis of several previous studies to support the theory that the narrator was a classic example of antisocial personality.

According to the description offered in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), an individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder manifests many of the symptoms displayed by the narrator in “The Black Cat.”  Alternately termed sociopaths or psychopaths, such individuals “engage in… substance use that has a high risk for harmful consequences,” “fail to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior,” make decisions “on the spur of the moment without forethought and without consideration of the consequences to self or others,” and “show little remorse for the consequences of their acts”.  Additionally, they may have “an inflated and arrogant self-appraisal” and be “excessively opinionated, self-assured, or cocky”.  The DSM-IV also states that deceit and manipulation are also central features of this phenomenon.  Siegel concurs, listing violence, risk-taking, substance abuse, and impulsivity as typical of those with Antisocial Personality Disorder.

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