The Suppression of Slavery in “the Black Cat” and Benito Cereno Essay

2026 WordsAug 16, 20149 Pages
In Poe’s “The Black Cat,” the narrator vacillates between remorse and uncaring in regards to his atrocities. He suppresses his guilt several times, and this suppression is manifested in his entombment of his wife within the walls of his basement. However, in the final paragraph of the story, the cat reveals his atrocity. It seems that a similar suppression is occurring in Melville’s Benito Cereno as well. Delano vacillates between seeing the situation on the ship for what it really is and suppressing his suspicion. It seems that the vacillations of these two characters symbolize the ambivalence of some Americans towards acknowledgement of slavery in America’s past. At the end of Benito Cereno, Cereno seems to realize that the history of America and the history of slavery are intertwined, for reasons that will be discussed later. It seems that both “The Black Cat” and Benito Cereno show how the history of America and the history of slavery are inextricable, and any attempts to extricate these two histories are futile. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate how both Poe and Melville seem to be commenting on the futility of trying to suppress a violent history, which is largely dependent on slavery. The narrator of “The Black Cat” continually suppresses his guilt over his wrong-doings and continually reburies his past. For example, the morning after initially abusing Pluto, the narrator has a feeling “half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty” (Poe 2522). However, this feeling is “feeble and equivocal” and his remorse “soon gave way to irritation” (2522). The narrator also attempts to rationalize the strangeness that befalls him. The narrator claims that “reflection came to my aid” as he tries to justify the “bas relief” of the cat but “Although I thus readily accounted to my reason…for the startling fact just detailed, it did not

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