Is the narrator of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" insane?
The narrator of "The Black Cat" is what's called an unreliable narrator. This means that we can't be sure that what he's saying is true; we simply can't take him at face value. Instead, we need to read his words carefully and see if we can construct a plausible account of what happened. Very few of us are trained psychologists, so we can only surmise as to his true mental state.
The narrator starts by telling us that he isn't mad; but he does acknowledge that some degree of psychological disintegration has taken place. We sense that the narrator is reluctant to acknowledge madness because of the shame and stigma that such an admission will bring. In reading the story, we need to remember that people with mental health issues in the nineteenth century were often treated appallingly by society, so we can understand why the narrator doesn't want to be tarred with the brush of insanity.
Yet the narrator undermines his own case by his meticulous account of the killing of his wife and the...
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