The Black Cat Introduction
by Edgar Allan Poe

The Black Cat book cover
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So you’re going to teach Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat.” Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, “The Black Cat” has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenges—depictions of alcohol abuse, murder, and animal abuse—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying “The Black Cat” will give them insight into Poe’s use of an unreliable narrator, figurative language, and important themes surrounding sanity and madness and good versus evil. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1843
  • Grade Level: 7-10
  • Approximate Word Count: 3,850
  • Author: Edgar Allan Poe 
  • Country of Origin: United States
  • Genre: Gothic Short Story
  • Literary Period: American Romanticism, Gothic
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Self
  • Narration: First-Person 
  • Setting: Unspecified 
  • Dominant Literary Devices: Imagery, Metaphor, Symbolism
  • Mood: Irrational, Divulgent, Deranged

Texts that Go Well with “The Black Cat”

The Cask of Amontillado (1846) is another short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It is a tale of revenge—Montresor lures the drunken Fortunato into the Montresor family cellar and proceeds to bury Fortunato alive. “The Cask of Amontillado” pairs well with “The Black Cat” with each story encouraging readers to question the motivations of its narrator.

“The Repairer of Reputations” is a short story by Robert W. Chambers, published in his collection The King in Yellow in 1895. It is narrated by Hildred, who has experienced a drastic personality change due to a head injury. Hildred is obsessive and delusional, leaving readers to question the truth of his narration as he seeks to fulfill his destiny as king of an Imperial American dynasty. “The Repairer of Reputations” and “The Black Cat” pair well, because both encourage readers to question the veracity of the story’s events through unreliable narration. 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) is a gothic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. Dr. Jekyll, a London doctor, concocts a potion that brings out his evil and violent side—Mr. Hyde. The otherwise respectable doctor uses the form of Hyde to roam the streets of London committing crimes. The story focuses on the dual nature of man, and the primal and violent urges that humans suppress...

(The entire section is 604 words.)