27 pages 54 minutes read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Black Cat

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1843

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Literary Devices


Content Warning: This section references animal cruelty, alcohol addiction, domestic violence, and mental illness.

Foreshadowing is a literary device that clues readers into a narrative’s eventual outcome. In this tale, the second cat’s tuft of white hair, which takes the shape of a gallows, prefigures the narrator’s eventual capture for the murder of his wife. The narrator interprets this image as an omen and ascribes it to the black cat’s supposedly evil nature. He reckons the second cat to be the cause of his misfortune and current misery, refusing to acknowledge his own agency in the deed for which he is to face execution.

Hubris / Tragic Flaw

Hubris is a tragic flaw originating in ancient Greek drama; it corresponds loosely to pride, but with connotations of blasphemy in that it involves seeking to surpass one’s lot as a human rather than a god. The narrator of “The Black Cat” attempts to subvert the prophetic image of the gallows by walling his wife up, but he then boasts to the investigating police in a way that ensures his capture. Even then, the narrator does not take responsibility for the murder but sees the cat as playing an instrumental role.