"The Black Cat" is one of Edgar Allan Poe's most memorable stories. The tale centers around a black cat and the subsequent deterioration of a man. The story is often linked with "The Tell-Tale Heart" because of the profound psychological elements these two works share.
Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Black Cat,” first published in the August 19, 1843, issue of the Saturday Evening Post, is a chilling story written through the eyes of a man awaiting death for the murder of his wife. For over 170 years the narrator of this story has captivated critics and readers with his allusions to ethos, pathos, and logos—as he says that he places “before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment” an unsettling account of the events surrounding the murder of his wife and his abuse of the family pets.
The narrator declares that he will state his case candidly, all the while creating nothing more than a pretense of frankness and objectivity. He titillates readers with details about the horrendous murder of his wife and his first cat—if, in fact, any cats were actually killed in the making of this story. He also may leave readers wondering about his purpose for writing. The story cannot save him from the noose. He has no progeny and mentions no living relatives who might care about his guilt or innocence, so the story serves little purpose for the writer, leaving readers to wonder who might be the intended audience and what might be the story’s point.
Readers return to this story, perhaps, because of the narrator’s ability to lure audiences into believing large parts of the tale. when the narrator confesses his guilt in the opening and offers incriminating information, readers may at first think the narrator offers a confidential and unique version of his predicament. However, when the narrator later blames the cat for everything that has gone wrong or when he begins to contradict himself, readers will question narrator reliability. It is true that readers often encounter unreliable narrators in literature, but the dissembling in this story actually points to an important aspect of Poe’s work as the numerous inconsistencies and deceptions direct readers away from the story and toward an assessment of the narrator and his behavior.