This study guide will help you analyse the short story “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, themes, and we will help you put the text in perspective.
Presentation of the text
Title: “The Black Cat” (1843)
Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Genre: Short story
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was an American writer. His poems and short stories deal with macabre themes, horror, and mystery. The short story “The Black Cat” was first published in 1843 in The Saturday Evening Post magazine.
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The title of the short story “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe has both a literal and a symbolic meaning.
In the literal sense, the title is a direct reference to the two black cats belonging to the narrator. The narrator’s first pet, Pluto, is described as “a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree” (ll. 25-26). The second cat is also “a black cat–a very large one–fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every respect but one” (ll. 116-117).
The title can also be connected to the comment about black cats made by the narrator’s wife: “In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise” (ll. 26-28). This connection creates reader expectation, as it implies that the story may deal with the supernatural and the mysterious. The mysterious nature of the narrator’s cats is also emphasised by the striking similarity between the two animals, their odd behaviour, the strange shape-shifting mark bore by the second cat, the fire that destroyed the narrator’s house after he killed the first cat, and the image of a hanged cat embedded in the fresh plaster of a ruined wall in his house.