Character Analysis in The Black Cat

Protagonist: The protagonist of “The Black Cat” is also the narrator. The character, who remains unnamed, understands the madness of his tale but tells it anyway. His guiding characteristic is his deep-seated rage, exaggerated by alcohol abuse, and violent outbreaks. In a tension which echoes Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the protagonist cannot control his “shadow self,” or violent ulterior persona. This shadow self increasingly prevails in satisfying its desires for drink and violence.

Pluto: The titular black cat is the protagonist’s pet, whom he names “Pluto.” The name is an allusion to the Roman god of the underworld, which gives the cat a deathly demeanour. As the story unfolds, the protagonist’s relationship with Pluto represents his transforming relationship with his own soul. When the protagonist first breaks down under the influence of alcoholic, he cuts out one of Pluto’s eyes. This wound is a figurative splitting of his own soul into light and dark. For the rest of the story, Pluto haunts him as a reminder of this inner wound.

Character Analysis Examples in The Black Cat:

The Black Cat 2

"It was a black cat—a very large one—fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every respect but one...."   (The Black Cat)

It is clear that Pluto has made a return from the dead—a move that should offer little surprise, given his name. The white mark is a symbol for the narrator’s guilt. The precise nature of the mark will be revealed subsequently.

"a disposition not uncongenial with my own...."   (The Black Cat)

The narrator reveals little about his relationship with his wife. The double-negative phrasing he uses here to introduce his dynamic with his wife may indicate a real lack of connection—a truth which will prove important to the story’s events.