In "The Black Cat," what or who is the conflict between? How does the conflict have an effect on the reader?

In “The Black Cat,” the main conflict is between the narrator and his overwhelming urge to kill. This is a classic example of an interior conflict, as it is between a person and their inner drives. The conflict is only resolved when the narrator is executed for killing his wife.

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As with many of Poe’s characters, the narrator in “The Black Cat” is deeply conflicted, not only with society but also with himself. For quite some time he’s been possessed by an urge to kill, an urge which manifested itself in the killing of his first cat, Pluto, and which has become horribly real once again in his murder of his wife.

Whatever the reasons behind the narrator’s murderous urges, there’s no doubt that he cannot control them, just as he cannot control his drinking. This is a man who’s effectively at the mercy of his emotions, unable to impose any kind of order or stability on his chaotic existence.

It didn’t always use to be like this; assuming that the narrator is to be believed, of course. Once upon a time, he was a kindly young man who positively adored pets and gladly shared his house with a veritable menagerie. But when the narrator throttled the eponymous black cat, poor old Pluto, he crossed a moral line the other side of which he can never return.

Whatever got into him, it’s never going away, and so there’s a horrible sense of inevitably about killing his wife. The narrator’s inner conflict is only finally resolved when he goes to the gallows.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 7, 2020
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The central conflict in “The Black Cat” is man versus himself. The narrator’s descent into madness is signposted frequently by his irrational behavior, his justification of that behavior and assigning the blame to others (including the cat), his torturing animals, and his murdering his wife. All of these signposts fall under his bizarre heading of “a series of mere household events.” The reader is turned into an innocent bystander who feels guilty for being powerless to stop this runaway train.

The narrator attempts a neutral tone when he tells the reader that he lynched his cat, which gives an especially chilling effect when contrasted to his earlier profession of being an animal lover and valuing pets' “unselfish” love for people. When he tells us he then adopted another, virtually identical cat, we assume that no good will come of this. Later in the story, when his sadism turns on his wife, the reader is saddened but not shocked.

Taking no responsibility for any of his actions, the narrator blames both alcohol and the cat, who “seduced [him] into murder.” Yet it is clear from early on in the story that the narrator is his own worst enemy. Rationalizing every bad decision by placing the blame elsewhere, he only reinforces the suggestion that he will be the instrument of his own demise. In the end, as he fulfills that expectation, the reader can at last feel relief that his reign of terror will come to an end.

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The conflict that occurs in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" is between the unnamed narrator and his large black cat named Pluto. After the narrator becomes an alcoholic, he gets into an altercation with Pluto and gouges one of his eyes out with a pen-knife. This escalates later into the narrator hanging the cat because he cannot bear the guilt he feels when he looks at the creature. 

Again, the situation escalates when the narrator gets a new cat that seems to taunt him with reminders of the cruelty he displayed toward Pluto. Again, the narrator attempts to resolve his guilt by attacking the cat with an axe, which results in his wife's accidental murder. 

The impact that this conflict has on the story's audience obviously varies from reader to reader, but I'd say it is safe to assume that the unreliable narration and the violence that occurs within the story is deeply unnerving for anyone who reads it. It may also cause us to question ourselves and what lengths we are personally willing to go to to justify our own private guilt. 

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The main conflict of The Black Cat is between the narrator and the titular black cat, named Pluto by the narrator. The two start out as being very close, but as the narrator grows older and becomes an alcoholic, he removes one of the cat's eyes and eventually hangs the cat from a tree. This is the start of the major conflict of the story. Although other characters come into play during this story, it is alluded that all the problems come from Pluto. The night after hanging the cat, the narrator's house burns down completely, leaving only the wall where the head of the narrator's bed had been. Upon that wall was a shadow in the shape of a cat with a rope around its neck. The conflict continues when the narrator gets a new cat that is almost exactly like Pluto, with one exception: it has a white spot on it. The spot grows more distinct eventually and becomes the shape of the gallows. Then, when she stopped him from trying to kill the new cat, the narrator killed his wife; and he is only found out because he had accidentally walled the cat in with his wife's body and it was meowing when the police came to investigate. All of the trouble, all of the events that happened, can be traced back to the narrator's conflict with Pluto.

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