Give a brief analysis of the story "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” may be the most disturbing of any of his other stories.  The victims include not a human being but an animal as well.  Poe uses an unusual approach of fantasy intertwined with reality so that the reader almost loses the boundaries between these two elements. 


The point of view is first person with the unnamed narrator the main character in the story.  The narrator spends much of time trying to convince the reader that he is not insane.  As the story progresses, it is obvious that the man was not only an alcoholic but an insane murderer. The man commits several heinous acts and knows that they are wrong particularly the brutal killing of the first cat.


The main character faces a conflict with alcoholism.  He even admits that this problem has tainted his entire life.   He also seems to be challenged by deciding between reality and fantasy. 

The Exposition and Rising Action

The main character awaits his execution the next day. Through the telling of the story, he intends to convince the reader that he is completely sane.   His alcoholism impacts his life.  He turns on his beloved cat and cuts out its eye.  The man cannot live with guilt of what he has done.  One day, he hangs the cat from a tree in the yard.  That night the house burns and only one wall is left standing.

One morning, in cold blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree; -hung it with the teas streaming from eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; --hung because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin…

On that wall was been burned the impression of the cat hanging. 

Further Action

After several months of trying to return to normalcy, the man goes into a saloon and sees another black cat.  It has a missing eye and looks exactly like the other cat except it has a little white around its neck.  Initially, the narrator loves this cat.  But as before, he begins to be annoyed by this one as well.  He notices that the cat’s white around his neck mysteriously looks like a noose for hanging.


As the man and his wife were walking down the stairs  to the cellar, the wife almost falls over the cat. The man becomes furious and picks up an axe to kill the cat.  The wife defends the cat, and the man buries the axe in her brain rather than the cat.

Falling Action

The narrator decides to hide the body of his wife in the cellar by using plaster to cover over where she was placed.  After he buries her, the main character notices that the cat is missing.

After four days, the police come to find out about his missing wife. Thinking that he has hidden the body so well, the narrator takes the police down to the cellar to look for his wife. Arrogantly, he taps on the wall where the body’s lies hidden. A scream is heard from inside the wall. The police tear down the wall to find the dead woman with the missing cat on her head and covered in blood.


The boundaries between fantasy and realism become difficult to separate. All of the events that happen in the story could have happened.  Some of them are less likely than others. For example, the cat staying quiet until the tapping on the wall seems unlikely since it undoubtedly would have wanted out. 

As the story moves toward the end, the narrator loses his grip on reality and is unsure himself as to what actually happens in the story.