What is the mood in "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe?

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The prevailing mood in "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe is one of unease and, later, disgust. Even at the beginning of Poe's story when the narrator is detailing his happy life and hasn't committed any violent acts, Poe shows that there's something rotten simmering under the surface. When the reader begins to understand what that narrator has done, disgust joins unease in creating the mood of the story. 

Poe sets the scene by having the narrator address the audience before beginning his tale. He says that "Tomorrow I die, and today I would unburden my soul" which already shows that something is wrong; either the narrator has committed a terrible act or he is an innocent man about to die -- though his admission that he needs to unburden himself and that he's been tortured and destroyed by "mere household" events make it clear that he's likely not entirely innocent. Since the narrator indicates bad things are coming in his confessions, Poe has already created a sense of unease that haunts the reader even in the pleasant introduction of the man's story.

The man explains that he was always known as a nice person who especially loved his pets. He gets married and his wife, too, loves animals. Then he details his relationship with Pluto in what might have been a nice opening to the story, if the reader didn't already know that the man is condemned to die and that something bad is going to happen. The disconnect between the happiness in the beginning of the story, and the author's address before he started telling it, leaves a reader feeling uneasy.

The man explains that his personality changes. He's abusive to his wife. Then he comes home one night and murders his old cat, Pluto, who bit him a little when the narrator scared him with his drunken violence. He tortures Pluto by cutting out his eye. Now Poe's story tempers the unease with disgust; the reader is worried about what will happen next, while already disgusted with the narrator. 

The disgust grows even stronger as the narrator describes how he kills Pluto, then later attempts to kill another cat and instead purposefully murders his wife. His evil maintains the sense of unease throughout the story, and the disgust grows apace as the reader realizes exactly what kind of man the narrator is and that, despite his acknowledgment of his evil, he tries to hide his crimes until the police find his wife's body.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mood, in literature, refers to the feeling created within the reader by the author's word choices and descriptions.  It's like the emotional atmosphere created by the author for the reader.  Immediately, when the story begins, the narrator tells us that he doesn't expect us to believe him.  He denies the idea that he could be "mad" or out of his mind: an immediate cause for concern -- why would he want us to know that, unless its validity may be doubtful?  He also tells us that he is going to die tomorrow; presumably he will be executed, for not many deaths are so precisely scheduled.  All of these details help to create a mood of both wonder and foreboding: this story will be dark.  The narrator continues, in just the first paragraph, to say that the events he is about to relate to us have "terrified -- have tortured -- have destroyed [him]."  Such a description of the story we are about to be told is chilling indeed.  

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The mood of "The Black Cat" is one of perverseness, fright, and uneasiness.  The narrator is clearly mentally ill and is an unreliable narrator, so this definitely adds to the mood of the story!  There is also a feeling of suspense as the narrator leads up to the way it was discovered that he murdered his wife.  At the end of the story:

The black cat, hideous, hidden behind the wall, cemented in by the Narrator himself, is a striking symbol of the decay and corruption of the man's soul. His guilt, self-hatred, and need for punishment are all exposed when he bangs on the wall, prompting the black cat to howl, and revealing to the stunned policemen the secret hidden behind the wall. (eNotes)
remhniang | Student

the mood of " The Black Cat" is fright, anger, and depressing.

andyshao1 | Student

It is one of extreme madness of the human soul

crystal-marie | Student

the mood i the story would be anger.. because the husband is sick in the head he is crazy

lacibabyy00 | Student

the mood of the story is anger kind of terrifying because the guy in the story is scary and sick.he's insane

lesli93 | Student

the mood in "The Black cat" is depressing.

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