What is the tone and mood of "The Black Cat"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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To achieve tone, which is dependent upon diction and style, writers manipulate language in an attempt to demonstrate how they feel about the narrative. With such an unreliable narrator as Poe uses in "The Black Cat," the tone is variable. At times, it is unwittingly ironic and irreverent; at others, it is dark and mocking.

IRONIC AND IRREVERENT

  • In the exposition, the narrator states that he proposes to retell "mere household events" that seem to him "little but horror" while to others they will "seem less terrible than baroque." 
  • The narrator states that he grew more irritable with his wife and "at length I even offered her personal violence." [the use of "offered" is ironic and disrespectful to his wife]
  • When he attempts killing the second cat, the narrator's wife intervenes and he ironically narrates, "Goaded by this interference into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain."
  • In the next paragraph, the narrator's tone is irreverently calm as he describes how he set about with "deliberation" to conceal his dastardly deed.

DARK AND MOCKING

  • After he murders his wife, the narrator reflects "The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little." He adds, "I looked upon my future felicity as finally secure.
  • When the police arrive unexpectedly, the narrator asserts that he is "[S]ecure in the inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever."
  • As the police depart, he tells them, "Gentlemen, I am delighted to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health and a little more courtesy. Taunting them, he says, "By the way, gentlemen, this--this is a very well-constructed house...."
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