The tone of a work is an author's attitude or feelings toward the subject matter. The tone of a piece of writing is often expressed through the author's writing style and diction.
The tone of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" is ironic. The narrator tries to convince the audience of his sanity, while describing his own obviously insane behavior. He treats gravely serious events, such as the murder of his pet cat and his wife, with casual indifference. He does not appear at all remorseful as he describes the great care he takes in entombing his murdered wife in the wall of his basement. We see Poe's ironic attitude once again at the conclusion of the story. The narrator is so arrogant and confident in how well he hid his wife's body, he taps on the very same wall his wife is buried behind in the presence of the police officers investigating her disappearance. Much to his surprise, his taps are answered with the meowing of the cat he unknowingly walled up with his wife's corpse. The cat's sounds betray the narrator's evil deeds and brings them to the attention of the police officers.
The mood of a work is the atmosphere and feeling the author aims to create. In other words, the mood is how the author wants the reader to feel. Tone is often expressed through diction and descriptive writing techniques, such as use of imagery.
The mood Edgar Allan Poe creates in "The Black Cat" is ominous and horrific. Poe uses dark language throughout the story. The narrator's wife references the superstition that black cats are witches in disguise. The narrator's pet, Pluto, is named after the mythological god of death and the underworld. Poe hints at the possibility of supernatural forces in the story. For example, just after the narrator kills Pluto, his house is engulfed in a fire. When the narrator visits the burned ruins of the house, there is a single unburned wall which shows the outline of a large cat with a noose around its neck. Soon after the narrator's brief episode of remorse over killing Pluto, he finds a cat in a tavern. The cat bears striking similarity to Pluto, with the exception of a patch of white fur on its chest. All of these things could be strange coincidences, figments of the insane, an unreliable narrator's imagination, or evidence of supernatural forces at play.
Poe foreshadows the narrator's doom throughout the story. From the start, the narrator tells us that he is going to die the following day. The outline of the hanged cat on the wall after the fire suggests the cat will somehow lead to the narrator's undoing. The narrator's downfall is once again foreshadowed when he notices that the patch of white fur on the second cat's chest has taken the shape of the gallows.
Through his dark descriptions, supernatural references, and use of foreshadowing, Poe creates an ominous atmosphere of suspense and horror.