illustrated portrait of American author of gothic fiction Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Start Free Trial

What similarities exist between "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

Expert Answers

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

One similarity between "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" is that the narrator is transformed from a healthy, rational human being into a monster. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," the narrator goes mad from watching the vulture-like eye of the old man, while in "The Black Cat," the narrator is deranged by alcohol. In both cases, the formerly sane narrators commit heinous crimes. The narrator in "The Tell-Tale Heart" slays the old man, while the narrator in "The Black Cat" kills the cat and later his wife.

In both tales, the narrator is done in by supernatural elements that represent his guilt. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," the narrator almost gets away with killing the old man until he hears the beating of the man's heart and confesses to his crime. In "The Black Cat," the narrator is almost able to escape the police when he raps on the wall in which his wife is immured. In response, a loud wail breaks out, and his wife's body, along with the cat, is revealed. In both cases, the narrator almost walks away from his crime until either the heart or the cat reveal his guilt.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" do have definite similarities. I like your idea about relating animals and animal-like characteristics to evil and homicide.  One major similarity that you could use in correlation with your idea is that both stories feature an unreliable narrator and the theme of insanity. 

Poe uses the unreliable narrator to force the reader into the uncomfortable role and perspective of a mad man.  In "The Tell-Tale Heart" the narrator does relate animal characteristics to things through his maddened view.  The narrator reveals his fear and loathing though his repeated use of the phrase "vulture eye" to describe the old man's eye.  In this case, the unreliable narrator's fixation on an animal attribute led him to madness in homicide.

In "The Black Cat," interestingly enough, Pluto's damaged eye, caused by the hand of the unreliable narrator, also becomes the focus of his increasing madness.  His guilt at having caused such a wound and his anger at the cat which he blames for having made him do it, coupled with the fact that the cat now avoided him drives the narrator into a fit of rage.  Later, when the narrator gets a new black cat, it too is missing an eye.  Coincidence?  

Another similarity between the two is that both of the unreliable narrators choose to hide their victims within their home.  The body of the old man is chopped up and hidden beneath the floor boards, and the wife is chopped up and concealed in the wall of the basement. Moreover, both corpses 'reveal' themselves through mysterious noises; the narrator in "The Tell-Tale Heart" hears the beating of the heart, and in "The Black Cat," the narrator hears a horrible wail when he knocks on the wall for the police (which of course is the second Black Cat.  The narrator had "walled the monster up in the tomb" (8).

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial