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A thought on Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’

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When I was young we lived in Moscow on the 11th floor of an apartment building so soviet you’d think it was made entirely from ice and concrete. Our Russian nanny Natasha would read us tales of Poe.

Ever since then I have loved Poe’s enigmatic tale The Black Cat and so here is my interpretation of it.

In Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Black Cat the narrator pens the tale of his descent from sanity to madness all because of an obsession with two (or possibly one) black cats. These ebony creatures finally drive him to take the life his wife, whose death he unsuccessfully tries to conceal.

There are many interpretations of this dark tale, from a study on the psychology of guilt to an exploration of religion. But I tend to feel that The Black Cat can be seen as an exploration of the process of change and call of the perverse that is sometimes an irresistible temptation.

At the outset of the story the narrator tells us that he is a great lover of animals, a mild mannered man and generally well meaning person. He seems to think of himself as a good and worthy character. We are introduced to a black cat, a creature with which he shares a particular affinity and whose company he values.

His affection for and descriptions of the cat are not dissimilar to his descriptions of himself. The cat can be seen to represent his good and sane self. When the man starts drinking he begins to turn on his wife and pets treating them badly. The cat exists as a reminder to him that he was once a gentle and good person.

He cannot face this reminder and over come by anger one night when the cat is avoiding him he deliberately cuts out one of the cat’s eyes.

This mutilation of the poor creature matches the man’s mutilation of himself through becoming an alcoholic. He recalls that when turning on his cat, Pluto, and tearing out its eye, ‘The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame.’

The next morning his remorse was ‘feeble and equivocal’ and his ‘soul remained untouched.’ He had been ‘grieved’ by the ‘evident dislike on the part of a creature which had once so loved him’, leading him to strangle it. This grief he puts down to the faint manifestation of his ‘old heart’ but it is so obviously a perverse delusion.

Although he feels remorse for his actions, perhaps indicative of his longing to return to his former temperament, he can no longer stand the cat’s company. He kills and hangs the cat in an attempt to assuage his guilt and ignore his undeniably shifting identity.

Despite his destruction of the animal, his guilt and self-loathing does not disappear. In fact it can be argued that his increasing foray into madness manifests itself in the second cat or apparition. As the narrative unfolds the cat turns from companion to monster, as does the man himself.

We could read this transition, as being solely down to alcohol, yet there is also a subtle implication of something else, something ‘extra’. He stresses the ‘docility and humanity’ of his infancy and his particular kindness to animals, a trait wholly at odds with the monster he later becomes.

His transformation is a curious and total about-turn. As the ‘Fiend Intemperance’ takes a hold of him he becomes abusive and violent, perhaps a soul possessed.

The story culminates in the unsolicited murder of the man’s wife when he can no longer resist the call of the soul ‘to vex itself.’ He has little or no restraint left over the all too powerful call of insanity that takes over his reason and results in his final fall from grace and incarceration.

This final act signifies his transformation from man to monster complete and is mirrored in the last appearance and betrayal of the cat, which, like the man has become a grotesque caricature of its original self. The cat betrays him by yowling out from behind the niche where his wife is entombed.

The cat which he has unknowingly walled up with the corpse represents his last attempt to lock away any connection to his other self. The cat however gives him away showing that he has ultimately betrayed himself.

This compelling conclusion resonates with readers and questions our curious fascination with and call to the perverse.

Does anyone else love Poe or think something different about the black cat?

Image courtesy of www.moviepostershop.com

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How to Charm Strangers


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Getting to know people and make new friends can be a daunting task for anyone who has moved away from their usual environment, started at a new school, workplace, or even if they just want to meet new people.

In any case knowing how to charm everyone you meet from infant to elderly will make your quest for friends, fun and adventure infinitely more exciting, enjoyable and successful.

Be cautious though! Charm, coupled with dangerous good looks is a combination that can be deadly, if you are good looking try not to use too much charm or you run the risk of being utterly adored by people you don’t like and uttered loathed by everybody else.

Secondly, a good dose of charm directed towards the wrong people can get you into a bad situation so be careful with your power and be sure to use it wisely. It may not be such a good idea to charm a prisoner, for example.

Cheeky Smile and Twinkling Eyes

So let’s get down to it. The first and most important trait of being charming is a genuine or cheeky smile and twinkle in your eye. The reason for this is that you must let your charm-ee know that you are not being serious.

This helps them to let down their guard and be open to laughing at your hilarious jokes or pleasant teasing. This stage is crucial.

Develop your smile to be natural and pleasant, try to convey a sense of easy going lightness and a playful aura. Likewise, many lines you will deliver when you are being charming are well tempered with a subtle wink at the end.

Convincing Your Charm-ee that they are Charming

The second most important part of being charming is to make the person you are talking to believe that they are entertaining and enthralling and that is why you are there listening to them.

They must believe that they are offering you something that you could get from nobody else. This gives the charm-ee the sense that they are important and interesting and they will remember you because you made them feel good about themselves.

Confidence and Sass

Next comes confidence. It is almost impossible to be charming without this. If you don’t have it, pretend to. The chances are the stranger with whom you are chatting has no idea about your real personality yet, so there’s no harm in experimenting with whatever attitude strikes your fancy at the time.

Tone and Expression

The tone of your voice is yet another important factor in being charming. Knowing what tone of voice to use in what situation is crucial to being able to charm the pants off any individual you come across.

If you want to flirt for example, lower you tone, speak more quietly so the person has to concentrate hard on what you are saying or lean in to hear you properly.

If you choose to be loud and energetic in group scenario’s don’t forget to include everyone into the conversation or you run the risk of intimidating, overwhelming and excluding other people.

You will also look a bit attention seeking. There is nothing wrong with being loud and fun, just be careful to let other people express themselves too. Bring them into your character don’t lock them out.

Dangerous Charm

Being charming at work or to people of authority is another hurdle because you have to be appropriate. Charm does not equally sexual. You can be charming without inserting sexuality or flirtiness.

This is a different type of charm, more about conveying energy and happiness in order to make the other person feel less serious and more attracted to your vitality. Your boss for example, you can’t be sexual towards them but you can be happy, and playful about how you handle things around the office.

Obviously make sure your doing your job done though otherwise you run the risk of being seen as a slacker.

Original Compliments

Generally speaking, people hear the same old compliments all the time, particularly if they have a stand out feature, like orange eyes or green skin. They probably still like those compliments but you will not stand out to them if you tell them what they already know.

The trick to being remembered is to tell them something they didn’t already hear from five hundred other people. Try complimenting their ‘delightfully enchanting giggle,’ or their ‘exceptionally glorious moustache.

What do your think of a charmer? Love em or hate em? Let me know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of : www.esquire.com

What’s up with the election results?

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I’m genuinely shell-shocked to find Tony Abbott has actually become the prime minister of Australia. I mean I know the odds seemed to be ‘ever in his favour’ from the polls, but I have never heard a single living person say a word in support of his leadership.

He looks just like Mr Anderson from The Matrix and he seems like narrow minded pratt. Tony Abbott has been seen in speedos, his ears have been known to flap like dumbo when he flies around the truth and his policies are so ten years ago I can’t even fathom how he got people to back him up.

I thought Australia was a progressive country leaning towards open mindedness, I was proud to consider myself a member of a community that, in my opinion was erring towards not racist and moving towards not sexist.

I looked forward to a future that embraced high speed technology, encouraged innovation, protected national park land and cared about the environment. A country that allowed two people of any gender to legally say they were eternally dedicated to one another. Instead I find myself in a country paused upon the brink of a backwards trip along the time continuum.

Where did all this support come from? All I can say is it certainly wasn’t from Gen Y in Melbourne.

What do you think of Tony’s election as president? Let me know in the comments below.