The last two stories I would like to conclude with are “The Black Cat” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Where “The Black Cat” “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” have narrators who show different degrees of madness, the narrator of “The Pit and the Pendulum” differs in that he struggles against the threat of insanity and succeeds in evading it. We seldom find this type of happy ending in Poe‘ s stories. In The “Black Cat” the narrator persecutes his haunting cat by gouging out one of its eyes in a fit of rage and later unsuccessfully trying to hang the cat. Then after killing his wife with an axe originally intended for the cat, he seals his wife’s body behind a brick wall. He becomes the victim of his own persecution in the end because detectives find the body of his wife by heeding the cries of the cat what the narrator had unwittingly imprisoned with the corpse.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” demonstrate how varied Poe can be within narrow limits. The former is a direct account by a maniac of how he committed murder because of a deceptive compulsion to carefully conceal the crime, and then was driven by a further thrust of his compulsion to reveal it to the police. “The Black Cat” portrays a maniac wavering in his attitudes, killing his wife in one insane outburst when what he really hates is his cat, and causing the truth to come to light by an insane act of false courage.
Persecution appears again as a theme in “The Pit and the Pendulum,” where the victim eventually escapes his tormentor. Death and decay is the theme of “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
To represent the major themes of life, death,and purity, Poe uses the colors red, black, and white. The pendulum and the heartbeat show the passing of time and life, while the pit represents the inevitable descent into the abyss that we must all experience when we die.
In short, Poe’s appeal lies to a great extent in his ability to frighten us. Poe cannot be taken lightly. It is this awesome uniqueness that he finds his place in literature.