What is the difference in the mood in "The Black Cat" and in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Black Cat" seems to have a more contemporary flavor, while "The Cask of Amontillado" seems ancient and gothic. We have some sympathy for the narrator of "The Cask of Amontillado" and actually want to see his plan of revenge succeed. On the other hand, we lose all sympathy for the narrator of "The Black Cat" after he treats his poor cat in such a sadistic manner. The mood in "The Black Cat" is haunted by the insane cruelty of the protagonist. We are quite satisfied to see him caught and punished at the end of the story, and we feel it is only poetic justice that he should be exposed by the cat. "The Cask of Amontillado" is a perfect-crime story in which the protagonist gets away with murder. "The Black Cat" is a conventional perfect-crime story in which the protagonist is caught and punished. "The Black Cat" is the kind of story in which the "effect" is produced by the surprise ending, while "The Cask of Amontillado" is the kind of story in which the effect is produced by the overall impression from beginning to end. The fact that Fortunato ends up chained to the rock wall comes as no surprise. Both stories are similar in that they display terrible cruelty by the protagonists. They make us wonder about Poe himself--how he could apparently take pleasure in writing about such vicious behavior by characters of his creation.

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