Doppel Daenger and Female Gothic in The Black Cat
"Doppel daenger" - the perilous thought that has been perpetually occupying the minds of many scholars - originates from the German language. By definition, this phrase translates to the existence of one's double - the concept of someone else independently existing with an equal identity to another individual he/she closely resembles. The idea of shared identity prevails in the genre of Gothic Literature, especially as a counter part of the female Gothic and predominantly in the great American all time author, Edgar Allan Poe's literary works. By the same token, the category of the Gothic genre called female Gothic entails both female authorship and emphasis on psychological depth. Thus, Poe takes the two literary devices and in attempt of fusing them together for the purposes of creating a more complex plot, the author delves in the issue of the contribution and purpose of double characters to the Gothic plot.
As Poe uses double characters as a literary device, interwoven with the use of female Gothic, in order to create an intricate and perplexing plot he also sets the foundations for an astonishing paradoxical situation. Most often, the engagement of a double figure plays a constructive role in respect to the plot thus expanding and embellishing the plot (not necessarily to the better), and a destructive role in respect to the revelation whose unhappy outcome contributes to the Gothic genre.
On the beginning of the story "The Black Cat," Poe introduces the "remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree" and then immediately ventures to remark on the "ancient popular notion which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise" (321). Furthermore, not unintentionally does the author choose to name the cat Pluto - the God of the dead in the underworld. Perhaps, the narrator hints to the hidden maliciousness of the cat. However, the plot does not begin to fully develop until the introduction of this cat. From the very first moment, as the reader's awareness of the infamous and mysterious black cat increases, the author warns the audience of the mysteriousness of the cat and its significance as the plot unravels. From a loveable and pleasurable creature, the cat grows into a demon. Poe informs of the mysteriousness of the black cat, nonetheless, the reader does not become fully aware of the cat's impetuous nature to the plot until the creature starts slowly creeping into and indirectly intruding the narrator's psyche. He grows "day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others," to which occurrence he refers as to the "Fiend Intemperance" (321). Out of "abundant love" for his "favorite" pet his animosity and inexplicable anguish exacerbate so deeply that first he takes a pen-knife, and "deliberately cut[s] one of its [Pluto's] eyes from the socket!," and then hangs the cat (322).