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Allusion in The Black Cat

Most of the ideological material in “The Black Cat” is derived from the Judeo-Christian bible. Throughout the story, the protagonist is wary of God’s attention, particularly as his behavior slips into a sinful chaos. Even as the protagonist drinks and commits acts of violence, he keeps an eye toward heaven. Because the narrative unfolds from his perspective, we are locked within his fearful vision of what he calls “the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.” Much of the story is concerned with the protagonist’s self-conscious wanderings into the terrain of sin.

Allusion Examples in The Black Cat:

The Black Cat

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"“Here at least, then, my labor has not been in vain.”..."   (The Black Cat)

This quotation is an allusion to the Bible. It is an interpolation of 1 Corinthians 15:58, which reads in its entirety, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Chapter 15 of First Corinthians describes the Last Judgment, when Christ is expected to return to earth and resurrect the dead, transforming them into “spiritual bodies.” Poe selected this biblical passage for its theme of resurrection, which figures prominently in “The Black Cat,” albeit in less numinous ways.

"as the monks of the middle ages are recorded to have walled up their victims...."   (The Black Cat)

This is an allusion to the practice of “immurement,” the penitential walling up of wrongdoers. In the Middle Ages, Catholic monastic orders used immurement as a standard punishment for monks and nuns who had broken their vows of chastity. In less extreme cases, the offender was walled into a solitary room, occasionally fed, and later released. In draconian cases, the offender was sealed in permanently, eventually dying of starvation or thirst. Poe was evidently intrigued by immurement, using it in both this story and “The Cask of Amontillado”.

"Pluto—this was the cat's name..."   (The Black Cat)

Poe’s choice to name the cat after the Roman god of the underworld is significant. We understand that the cat has supernatural qualities, is associated with death, and may, like its namesake, exist in a liminal state between realms of the living and the dead.

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