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Critical Discussion

This terrifying tale embodies Poe's ideas about the pathological workings of the criminal mind. Poe believed that criminals are disposed to give themselves away not because of guilt but from the anticipated pleasure of defying moral authority. The narrator seems to relish the notion that his crime of hanging Pluto is a sin "beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God." His otherwise inexplicable act of preventing the police from departing and rapping on the bricks that conceal his wife's body is driven by the narrator's desire to "cap" his "triumph."

At the very start of this account, the narrator says, "for the most wild yet homely narrative I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief." Yet he couches his tale as a confession, and this clearly requires that we give his tale credibility. Throughout his account, the narrator undercuts his own credibility. He says, for example, that his purpose is to relate the events of his crime, which he characterizes as "a series of mere household events," "plainly, succinctly, and without comment." But he nonetheless immediately digresses by talking about the superstitious association between black cats and witches, which he mentions "for no...

(The entire section is 417 words.)