The Black Cat Analysis: Is it Evil?

Madness and impending doom both seem to merge together into the narrator of “The Black Cat”, as he tries to grasp what is left of his sanity after committing the murder of his cat and of his wife. The short story itself is therefore a digression of unbiblical and inhuman rage, as Poe writes with such fervour and power that the very definition of evil is questioned, suggesting that the narrator, due to his insanity, cannot be categorised under its reaching boundaries, as in both circumstances the narrator is clearly not in possession of his senses; Poe seems to be implying that there should be a distinct dividing line between both evil and lunacy; someone whose mind runs differently to our own cannot fit under our definition of evil.

The first signals of the narrator’s wavering mind is seen briefly at the beginning of the story, as he introduces the reader personally. This serves for the reader to observe his diseased mind, and to form a connection with the narrator as they begin to get some indication of his madness. The opening paragraph seems to form part of the narrator’s confession: the narrator is unburdening his soul, releasing his troubles and revealing how they led to his breakdown. even if his “very senses reject their own evidence”, as he is drawn into the mists of imagination; he is plainly insane at this moment. Furthermore, the narrator stresses that  the occurences were “mere household events”; however they have still haunted him. Following this thread, the reader would discover that the narrator had plainly made a harrowing connotation out of the fire after he had killed his cat, and when the burn marks on the walls resembled that of a cat’s.

Another piece of the puzzle becomes evident when Poe implies that the narrator’s own madness had stemmed from his sudden alcoholism habit. The narrator is firstly seen as a happy and carefree man, “tender of heart”, and who was fond of animals, a feeling shared by his wife. However, this fleeting moment of happiness was soon overturned as soon as the narrator mentions the beginning of his alcoholism: through “the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance”, the narrator was seen to be morose, irritable and violent towards his wife and his pets when under the influence of drink. This led to a perverted sense of reality, of which led to his assault on Pluto, his beloved cat, when he cut out one of its eyes. From the reactions afterwards, it is clear that the narrator fully remonstrates this act, and names it an “damnable atrocity”, an random act of violence that was spurred not necessarily by the narrator’s own cold-bloodiness, but by his moment of relapse from alcohol.

The narrator’s descent into madness, not evil,  continues to a greater extent after assaulting Pluto: The narrator describes the overwhelming guilt he felt, and his sadness as he watches his life quickly disintegrates, soon inevitably showing a desirable feeling to kill the cat altogether, out of “perverseness”, likely spurred on by his unwillingness to bury his grief. The consequences of the action made his attitudes to the new cat more sensible: the narrator believes that his own guilt had returned, in the form of the other cat, and would haunt him for all eternity. It is then not evil, but the narrator’s own plaguing remorse, that made him visualise the mark of a hangman’s noose on the back of the other cat (of which he cannot bring himself to digress), and which made his intenseness hatred towards the cat. The last act to unhinge the narrator, then, was his wife’s murder, when she attempted to protect the cat from her husband’s lunacy. Then, the narrator truly loses his grasp, and, using his flawed reasoning, attempts to conceal the body, not realising that he had also walled up the cat until it was much too late.

Throughout both murders, it should not suffice to state that the narrator’s motives were really brought about by evil: the narrator was first under the influence of alcohol, then afterwards the victim of his scalding guilt. Furthermore, it should be remembered that the narrator was a kind and a happy person, along with a wife whose “disposition was not uncongenial with (his) own”, and that he felt almost at peace after he disposed of the other cat. The other cat was itself a representation of his guilt, hence of his heightened lunacy.

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The Life of an Rhinoceros

Photo source: oatsy40 on Flickr (CC)

For the zookeepers at Hoson Central, it was a special day: not that the object of their celebration would be too much aware of it. For Rusty, the five hundred kilogram rhinoceros, it was already up to six years since his birth into the world: six years of being watched and admired by hordes of tourists and holidaymakers: small toddlers gazing, transfixed, through the somewhat stained windows, their mouths agape and their eyes alight in gentle delight and fascination. They were seeing the real thing, horn and all, which was rather different from the fluffy stuffed models of rhinoceroses that they had purchased or had seen in the gift shop: They were much larger, for one; or adults, looking somewhat awkward, standing tall over the children and using words of naivety and sweetness, which consisted of words such as “sweetums” and “dear”.

For those six years, Rusty had learned the way of the world: or, at least the enclosure: his world spanned the ten by fifteen rectangular paddock, which contained several patches of pale-green grass, on which he learned was excellent to lie on a scorching day. There were even offerings of food from those strange, upright-walking objects, who had sometimes wandered into the paddock to pat his skin, or to inspect him from every angle conceivable, of which he had gradually got accustomed to: it was rather terrifying at first: he did not know what they were going to do to him, as they quickly approached from a small opening in the glass panel: the food was satisfactory, yet somehow still meagre and insufficient: however, the beings seemed to have understood his wishes, for the food offered slowly grew in size: his mother had stated that this was because they knew that he was rapidly growing and developing: he needed now more nourishment than the last year.

There was even a small area of water, which reached up his legs, lapping and yet massaging the muscles. The water seemed to understand him, to encourage him, to relieve him of all the grime which had found a way to envelop his back. It was then that he discovered, after the first few moments in the water, that this was the singular moment which the beings behind the glass enjoyed the most: their mouths opened wide, and they motioned or beckoned their fellows to see. It was of slight annoyance to him, as he had wanted privacy, a moment to really become acquainted with himself.

The day dawned like any normal day: Rusty slowly opened his eyes to the array of colours which infused the new day: a bird was excitedly calling to its acquaintances from outside, and the sounds of traffic and the construction of a nearby building seemed to be more distant and soft: the ground underneath him was gentle and muddy, following the recent bout of rain that had washed and scourged the land. across from him, the distant calling of the bird could still be heard, and it was soon joined with the hoot of its fellows, the caw of its fellow species, and the very distant rumble of a plane. The clouds scraped thinly across the sky, all  with a tinge of pink, or the deepest shade of purple.

Voices issued from the opposite side of the glass: a man and a woman were struggling with the handle. They had between them a large object, covered with a sheet. At last, the door slid open, and the two strode across the enclosure towards him. Strangely, all Rusty’s fear of the humans were dispelled. As the man placed the bundle of leaves, small trees and organic food onto the ground, the woman spoke: she knew that Rusty would not understand, but she had felt that it was right to do so:

“Make a wish.”

The Prisoner

The hive mind of individuals scuttle through the streets as they progress through each moment of their lives illuminated by bright, fluorescent streetlights. A businesswoman waits patiently for the light to turn green while vehicles drive past her towards their destinations, her eyes fixated on the phone clasped in her right hand directly in front of her, listening for the signal to cross. She disinterestedly reads the news, scanning across the titles of the main stories promoting products and portraying optimism. Surrounding her, the quiet hum of engines overlaid with subdued voices and the constant tramp of boots on the pavement form a cacophony of a bustling but lifeless city.

The normal goings-on of city life are punctuated by a brief flicker followed by sudden and unforeseen darkness. The sound of footsteps, transportation and chatter is replaced by sudden silence then cries of panic and confusion as the lights blink out and fail to turn back on. For several seconds, people stop in incomprehension.

The silence is punctured by a woman’s scream.

“Why aren’t they turning back on?”

This unanswerable question is met with speculation. “The back-up generators have probably failed,” postulates one man. “The machines running the power station have failed,” suggests another. A group of children begin crying, their din adding to the dissonance. One child tosses his handheld computer
onto the ground, its dim screen a shining beacon in blackness.

The businesswoman gasps in disbelief as the energy is sapped out of her body, a grip of concern twisting around her heart. Where before she was alive and well, she is now filled with panic that reverberates throughout her body, urging her to join in with the others, to try to come to some sort of understanding of what has happened.

Yet their desperate pleas remain unanswered as the situation unfolds in the city’s power station several kilometres away.

***

Tony Scott is a deeply troubled, dissatisfied man, his bloodshot, blinking eyes reflecting the light of a world he has seen slowly degenerate around him. Throughout his life Tony was a man who loved the outdoors, spending most of his early years as a farmer. However, he was renowned throughout his neighbourhood for his delicate arrangements and meticulous caring for his camellias, tulips and acacias in his private garden that the locals nicknamed ‘The Garden of Eden’. Tony led a cheerful and simple life, free from the worries of people consumed by the desire to rise above in the corporate sphere or participate in convoluted city life.

However, after Tony lost his job to a machine, his flowers began to wilt mysteriously and reports of unsustainable air pollution circulated. The bright sun that had warmed his skin and allowed his garden to grow gradually became hidden behind a fog of pollution. Tony’s love for the environment and natural beauty transformed into an animadversion against the apathetic people and the ‘goddamned machines’ he saw at the heart of the problem. Whereas his friends or family willingly became prisoners of technology, Tony resisted, his faith in the natural world impervious to mechanisation and industrialisation. He continued watering his garden until the last shrub shrivelled up, refusing to be chipped, refusing to let himself become one of them, another cog in a machine run by heartless mechanical slave masters.

Tony vented his anger and frustration not only towards the robots contaminating society but the uncaring populace who let his life’s work be destroyed. Tony, however, knew the futility of sharing his views with the brainwashed population, and began searching for likeminded people, forming a covert organisation with the aim of ‘preserving humanity in the face of inhuman machines.’

Despite initial difficulties, Tony’s side project proved to be a great success, his years of discontent and planning finally paying off as he achieved recognition among others who wanted to alter the course of society’s progress.

From humble beginnings, Tony became akin to a radical, a leader of those rebelling against the system. Today, resting his arthritic joints in an armchair in his apartment, a grin of pure pleasure spreads across his face. When the lights flicker off and the panic sets in, Tony’s smile only widens.

His years of planning have finally come to fruition.

***

Groups of rebels storm the power station, equipped with guns and a powerful sense of justice. Khan Swayne, leader of the squad, gruffly issues the men their orders: “Shoot only if necessarily – the control room is this way.”
The men progress down the hallway, guns levelled in case of discovery. However, their surroundings are eerily silent, the only audible sounds being far-off motors running and buzzing of electrical wires.

Khan feels alive, the electricity flowing through the wires around him mirroring the buzzing of energy through his veins. Although still young at the age of 24, he is beyond his years in wisdom, seeing through the guise of modern life as normal, safe and fulfilling. Growing up in this world Khan has known nothing of a life before computers as people rely on technology for their jobs and interactions, becoming less interested in the real world and the people that inhabit it.

Khan still vividly remembers his first day at school, being called in front of the class and told that learning facts was a waste of time when one always has access to a computer’s more accurate and reliable opinion. His father had been an important and wealthy scientist and had taught Khan how to read, write and reason before beginning school, but the educational system gradually ground down his interest in academia, interested only with preparing him for his future job.

Although on several occasions Khan was offered the opportunity to develop more advanced and sophisticated forms of artificial intelligence in recognition of his natural ability, he repeatedly refused. He, like Tony, did not want to see a world populated by humans that could not think independently and relied entirely on computers to form their knowledge of the world.

Khan thinks that there must surely be something more to existence, something he finds himself drawing closer to as he ventures further into the power station.

“Good thing they replaced these people with robots, eh? Means we don’t have to cause as much trouble,” remarks Khan with a slight smirk.

Consulting a digitally stored map, Khan navigates the bifurcating paths until they reach the heart of the facility. The squad splits into separate groups, one heading towards the backup generator and the other towards the main control room.

Without conceiving of the possibility of a break-in, security in the power station is weak and sparsely spread. The greatest barrier to entry is the electrified fence, which the rebels earlier hacked and disabled. From there, security cameras had tracked their location but they had yet to meet with any opposition.

Reaching the terminal room, Khan wrenched the door open, exposing the various controls within. There is no-one there – humans are not required, then sets to work achieving his revenge. With his aptitude for computers, hacking into the central authority takes mere seconds.

In a matter of minutes, power to most of the city is cut off, leaving people without the power that they so desperately needed.

As the city plunges into darkness, in Khan’s head there exists only light – the possibility of a new future where people are individuals free from the omnipresent, controlling influence of technology.

It’s a Very Hard Knock Life

One of the facts of life that you would encounter in your daily activities would almost be certainly the fact that not everything goes towards your expectations: The post was not delivered in the time period that I was expecting: the toast was burnt to a crisp: I must have mistaken the time needed as six minutes, not five; and the dog has, yet again did a number two in my bedroom slippers, even though I had told it repeatedly that it is not a toilet. Now, I dare not ever put my feet in my slippers, for fear of touching something warm and squishy.

This can either be a good thing, or, in my case, a horribly bad thing, which just has the effect of increasing my bed’s magnetism: It used to be that I would spend an average of seven minutes in bed before I choose to do the brave thing of trying to sit up in bed, up to fifteen on days with a temperature below 15 degrees. Now, this has approximately doubled, with the fact that I would be consequently discouraged from participating in the hassle that is known as “daily routine”. Who wants to be awoken from tea with the Queen by the annoying sounds of an alarm clock, and to have to drag yourself in the direction of the bathroom along the floor for ten metres, a distance that is comparable to running the New York Marathon, especially when the floor is marble/porcelain/not carpet, and when frost had gathered on the windows. Now, knowing that the unpredictability of life makes this even more hazardous and life-threatening, especially with the absence of any woollen slippers, the reaction I get all the time is this: “Why bother?”.

I understand that, in effect, the converse could be true: The postman would have delivered my mail early, the toast would be perfect, and my dog would have learned to use the toilet, like everyone else. However, such is our transport system and our workplace loads, that we tend to lower our expectations more then we tend to raise them: everyone would be absolutely amazed if one train actually made it on time, and, pretty soon, all the networks would be over the incident, hordes of men and women, dressed in tuxedos, interviewing the driver of the train as heroic.

But, delays are so common nowadays that, even if a whole trainload of passengers goes missing for three weeks, a rescue team is still not made aware of this: the period, I guess, is 4 years.

But what has made transport so lacklustre? The explanation lies in the fact that we all want to avoid doing things that we do not want to do: no one, such as train drivers, managers, employees, tram drivers, want to do things such as going to work early, making train services start earlier: make every employee work longer and earlier shifts, because that would equal to what is known as a “boycott”.

But, since train drivers can expect delays, such as large crowd, this would mean that they would be delayed further by people who are too incessant about catching an earlier train, when the next could be only two milliseconds away: you get up to tens of millions of passengers fighting over a single seat, with people scratching each others’ eyeballs out and bashing each other with secret company documents. Strangely, this is not considered too much to be assault.

So, because of the fact that we all want what is best  for us, I deduce that there would be no reason to wear my woolly slippers ever again.

The nature of humans by Matthew Ung

Humans are the most selfish species currently inhabiting the Earth. They have bred well beyond their means, squandered precious resources and endangered their fellow animals, yet still they desire more. They desire wealth and would sacrifice the lives of other species for luxuries they do not deserve. What makes humanity greater than animals? Is it their intelligence? I believe that intelligence is the only trait that makes humanity different from other species, however merely because humanity is more intelligent does not give them the right to atrociously treat other species. If there was a person who had a mental disability, would you treat them any worse? Humans grasp at a perfect world of equality, yet speciesism is still prominent throughout society. Why do our ideals of equality exclude other animals? How would we feel if we were treated like how we treat our animals? Our very existence would be devoted to being consumed. We would live futile lives.