What are the similarities between "The Tell -Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat" are early examples of what has come to be known as "perfect-crime" stories. In these stories the murderer thinks he has planned his murder perfectly and cannot be arrested or convicted. But in each perfect-crime story the murderer is exposed because he has overlooked one detail. The theme of such stories is always: "There is no such thing as a perfect crime" or "Murder will out." In the very popular television series Columbo starring Peter Falk, the shows were almost always perfect-crime stories. The murderer was usually a very intelligent, sophisticated man or woman who thought he or she had everybody fooled, including Detective Columbo. But the flakey detective usually trapped the perpetrator by turning up the one little incriminating clue his suspect had overlooked. An excellent example of a perfect-crime movie directed by the famous Alfred Hitchcock is Dial M for Murder, a 1954 film frequently shown on television. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

 Edgar Allan Poe wrote grotesque, macabre stories with a unique approach to each one.  ‘The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” have several similarities.

Subject of the story

The kind of evil that Poe writes about is not about monsters, fantastic heroes or even the supernatural.  The stories are about ordinary, seemingly, real life situations. The readers of the story can find aspects of the situations in which they may find a shred of themselves in the characters. 


The similarities in many of Poe’s stories begin with the setting. For most of “The Black Cat,” the setting is the narrator’s house(s).  In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the narrator lives in the old man’s home which becomes filled with violence, death, anguish, and isolation. The homes are places where mysterious things happen.

The Narrators

The narrators are nameless in each of the stories. Like the narrator in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," the "cat" narrator also begins his story with the declaration that he is not "mad," and that his story is no "dream.”

 “The Black Cat”

Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not --and very surely do I not dream.

 “The Tell-Tale Heart”

True!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been, and am; but why will you say that I am mad?

Both stories have similar narrators who spend part of their time trying to convince the readers that the cat or the old man made them commit their heinous crimes.  Even more to the point, the men become obsessed by the victims: the old man’s eye and the first black cat. Both of the main characters commit their crimes against innocent, unsuspecting victims.

The Resolutions

The outcomes of both of the stories are essentially the same: The men are so sure that they have committed the perfect crimes that they encourage the police to go to the cellar in the “Cat” and to sit in the spot where the old man is buried in the “heart.”  Overconfidence catches both of the men and the police find the wife’s body along with the wild cat, and then the old man’s body that has been cut apart.

The Policemen

Like the policeman in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the cops in “The Black Cat” are generic characters, without defining characteristics, other than the fact that they are policeman. The policemen in both of the stories drive the action by showing up and investigating.

The men of both stories are probably languishing away in their various cells. The reader knows for sure that the “cat” narrator is there because he will be hanged the next day.  The end of the “heart” story is not so clear.  More than likely, he is sitting in his padded cell awaiting his next visit to the psychiatrist.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial