The Black Cat Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

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What are the symbols throughout the story of the black cat in Poe's "The Black Cat"? Also, how did Poe establish an atmosphere of fear and horror in "The black cat"? I need to consider foreshadowing, points of view, allusions, symbols etc.

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Poe establishes an atmosphere of fear and horror in several different ways in "The Black Cat." Firstly, the narrator, who is telling the story from the first person point of view, describes himself as docile, humane and a lover of pets. But this character ends up doing the most unimaginable things. He abuses, harms and kills his favorite pet and later ends up killing his wife. Perhaps what is most horrific about the story is the ease with which the narrator describes his deeds. 

The narrator is frequently contradicting himself. He used to be docile but later turned murderous. He had regret and even shame about harming his cat but later feels fine about having murdered his wife. The fact that he can commit these dreadful deeds in cold-blood is very disturbing.

As for symbols, most readers agree that there are many symbols associated with the two cats in the story. The first cat is a completely black cat. In European history, black cats were thought to be unlikely, some even thought that they were witches. In fact, the narrator mentions that his wife said the same about the cat jokingly. This is an allusion to the historical myth about black cats. The narrator tries to give the impression that he is not superstitious and doesn't believe these stories. But as he develops a progressively hateful attitude toward this cat that he once loved, one wonders whether he truly believed the myth. (By the way, black cats are in fact lucky as the gene that makes them all black [called melanism] also reduces their risk of disease. Cats with melanin are the opposite of albino cats that are all white. The reason for their color is the same, it has to do with the amount of melanin in their skin and hair).

The other symbolism about the first cat is his name, Pluto. In Greek mythology, Pluto was the ruler of the dead and the underworld. So perhaps his name was a premonition of his fate? Or perhaps his name convinced the narrator of...

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