What made the narrator kill his wife in "The Black Cat"?

The fact that his wife tried to spare the life of their second cat was the reason that the narrator murdered her in "The Black Cat." Indirectly, the murder was caused by the narrator's alcoholism, mental instability, and guilt over the murder of his first cat, Pluto.

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To properly answer the question of what made the narrator kill his wife in the short story "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe, it is important to briefly go over the sequence of events and the author's clues about the narrator's character.

The narrator explains that since he was young he loved animals and had a large number of pets. When he marries, his wife also loves pets, and so they have several. His favorite is a black cat named Pluto, whom he treats especially well. However, the narrator succumbs to "the fiend intemperance." In other words, he starts drinking alcohol heavily, and as the alcohol begins to affect his mind and judgment, he starts abusing the animals. He refrains from hurting Pluto until the cat slightly bites him in fright. In rage, the narrator first puts out one of the cat's eyes with a pen knife and then later hangs it by a rope from the branch of a tree.

That night the house catches fire, and a silhouette of a large cat appears on a wall. This image haunts the...

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 1133 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 4, 2020