Superstition &Amp; Insanity

2562 Words11 Pages
Mental Instability & Superstition Both superstition and mental instability are used in a vast amount of literary works, frequently as the motivating factor of a character’s actions or as the motif in the story. The following short stories are told by narrators all with similar, but slightly different, mental states. In the beginning of two of the stories, the narrators are seemingly ordinary people, but as the story progresses, the reader watches the narrator gradually lose their grip on sanity; of these two, only one is able to see this occurring. “The Black Cat” is a classic horror story by Edgar Allan Poe in which the narrator is able to witness and comment upon his own mental deterioration, yet is unable to halt his slip into insanity. The story begins with the narrator telling of “events have terrified -- have tortured -- have destroyed me”(Poe, “Black Cat” 37). He begins his narration in retrospect at a time when he considered himself to be a normal, kind person, and the reader discovers that the narrator’s personality has undergone a drastic transformation, which can be credited to his use of alcohol. Furthermore, the reader can discern that the narrator is superstitious, as he recalls that his wife made “…frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise”(Poe, “Black Cat” 39). Although the narrator would deny this claim, his superstitions become more evident as the story progresses. The reader is first exposed to the narrator’s fall into madness when the narrator returns home during one of his debauches, and felt that his cat, Pluto, was avoiding him. The narrator violently seizes the animal, and frightened, the cat bites him. Incensed, he grasps Pluto by the throat and, with a penknife, cuts out its eye. The next morning, he writes, he was horrified at what he had done. But soon thereafter his
Open Document