Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” delivers all of the spooky elements that make a terrifying and haunting tale. This particular dark short story combines fear and guilt with brutality and violence, ultimately leading to the murder of the narrator’s wife. However, it also explores the themes of depths of the flaws in the human spirit, including battling with alcoholism, the dangers of domestic violence, and the ultimate judgment that follows the most heinous of sins.
The story begins with the narrator, the day before he has been condemned to die. His home before the fire is nondescript, but it has a pretty garden. The narrator routinely hangs out in “haunts” or taverns, adding to the feel of creepiness and violence he routinely brings home. His home after the fire has a dark, dank cellar, perfect for concealing a body.
ELEMENTS OF SUSPENSE
The strongest example of foreshadowing comes in the form of the black and white cat, who not only is missing an eye like Pluto, reminding the narrator of his violent act, but the white mark on his chest changes shape to look like a gallows. This foreshadows the judgment that will ultimately find the narrator.
MYSTERY OR DANGER
The narrator is almost reluctant to tell his tale, because he doesn’t think that anyone will believe him. He begins in his childhood, where he knew he was different than other children, and then moves into the early years of his marriage. His pacing is slow and deliberate, ultimately leading to the reveal of how he wound up murdering his wife and being sentenced to death.
The mystery of the apparition burned into the narrator’s wall of Pluto with the rope around his neck leads the reader to believe that the narrator has not seen the end of Pluto. In addition, the narrator’s violence in his drunkenness creates an atmosphere of volatility and unpredictability, which ultimately leads to his wife’s murder.