“The Black Cat” (1843)
Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allan Poe, (born January 19, 1809, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.—died October 7, 1849, Baltimore, Maryland), American short-story writer, poet, critic, and editor who is famous for his cultivation of mystery and the macabre. His tale “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) initiated the modern detective story, and the atmosphere in his tales of horror is unrivaled in American fiction. His “The Raven” (1845) numbers among the best-known poems in the national literature.
“The Black Cat” Analysis
More than any of Poe's stories, "The Black Cat" illustrates best the capacity of the human mind to observe its own deterioration and the ability of the mind to comment upon its own destruction without being able to objectively halt that deterioration. The narrator of "The Black Cat" is fully aware of his mental deterioration, and at certain points in the story, he recognizes the change that is occurring within him, and he tries to do something about it, but he finds himself unable to reverse his falling into madness.
Discussion Questions for “The Black Cat”
In the first line, the narrator describes the tale as a most 'homely' one. What do you think of that word being used to describe a story? Have you ever heard it used to describe any other story?
The narrator says he is not mad and does not dream. Do you believe him on either count? Why or why not?
The narrator says he is to die on the morrow. At that point, did you think he was ill?
Did you wonder why he had a pet monkey, but he said the cat was the one that followed him around the most? Didn't that seem odd and unlikely?
What does the 'fiend intemperance' mean?
Did you wonder why the wife stayed with the man after he became a mean alcoholic?
Why do you think the fire happened the same night as the cat's death? Is it ever really explained in the story?
The original cat was all black, but the new cat had a white splotch. What is Poe trying to signify?
Why did the narrator resent the new cat so much?
How did you react when you found the couple lived in poverty? Did you think they were well-to-do up until that point?