The black cat itself represents not only a hidden meaning but a meaning the narrator wished to keep hidden. The black cat symbolizes the narrator's or Poe's alcoholism. Edgar Allen Poe has been accused of being an alcoholic throughout his life and it may have actually lead up to the cause of his death. The short story may give a subtle view at Poe's fight with the disease and the disease's eventual triumph. The black cat may not only be a symbol of the alcoholism that Poe faces but perhaps just his conscious in general regarding most anything deviant.
By depicting mental conflict, Poe reveals the theme that the human mind would be healthy and alive if it were incapable of thought, but since it is a mind and does possess the power of introspection and self-knowledge, then that very power and knowledge spell its death. From this protagonist with conflicting thought, we may experience more or less Poe’s inner world of himself in which his mind is half mad and full of horror like the narrator of “The Black Cat”. Poe was afraid of the fits of temper that came over him while he was drinking. When sober he was a gentleman, courteous in any situation, and the very soul of gentility.
When he was affected by alcohol, however, the suppressed rage that he felt for what he considered the injustices of a gross and unfeeling would expressed itself in vituperation and violence. In creating the narrator of “The Black Cat”, Poe distorted and exaggerated all the faults of his personality while drunk. Even though the narrator denies this, we becomes increasingly aware of his superstitious belief as the story progresses from the fact that he calls his cat, Pluto, who in Greek and Roman mythology was the god of the dead and the ruler of the underworld.
One moment he will be in a perfect frenzy of violence, with nothing but curses and vituperation even for those he loves. Very quickly, however, he is overcome with remorse and is sorry for all that he has said and done. We can prove this by reading the following sentences: Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow.
It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself—to offer violence to its own nature—to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only—that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. The narrator is not Poe, but Poe used details of his own experience in the character of the narrator. Indeed, Poe places the subconscious condition of the mind under investigation and probes beneath the surface of normal existence. What interests him most is the deep abyss of the unconscious and subconscious mental activity of the people, the subterranean recesses of the mind at work.