Does "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe offer any meaningful commentary on the justice system?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe begins with the narrator's announcement that tomorrow he is going to die, yet he claims that he is the one who has been tortured and ultimately destroyed by the events that happened before now and which he is about to tell us. From this revelation we understand that the narrator is unwilling to take blame for anything that happened to put him in the position he is in today; we also suspect he may not be sane.

While trying to kill his cats (yes, more than one), he also killed his wife and made deliberate calculations to bury her.

By means of a crow-bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and, having carefully deposited the body against the inner wall, I propped it in that position, while, with little trouble, I re-laid the whole structure as it originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster which could not be distinguished from the old, and with this I very carefully went over the new brick-work. When I had finished, I felt satisfied that all was right.

The narrator may not be a sane man, but he is deliberate and calculating when he commits what he calls a "hideous murder" and hides his wife's body in the cellar. He has been tried and sentenced to die for this premeditated crime, so to that extent the justice system worked. If there is a flaw in the justice system, it is that it failed to recognize this man's insanity and will punish him for something which he cannot help. Perhaps the only real truth about the justice system in this case is that someone is going to pay for the wife's death.

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