The Black Cat

The Black Cat Study Guide

"The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe was first published in 1843 in an edition of the long-running periodical The Saturday Evening Post and subsequently included in The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (1845). The short story is acclaimed for its probing of insanity, unreliable narration, symbolism, and creeping suspense; nevertheless, the lurid tale, while respected by most scholars and acknowledged as a literary classic, does not always share the prominence of Poe's more popular tales, such as his 1846 short story "The Cask of Amontillado" and its 1839 predecessor "The Fall of the House of Usher."

The publication of Tales garnered a variety of contemporary critical responses. Rufus Griswold wrote that Poe possessed “a great deal of imagination and fancy” and said it was Poe’s tales that made his reputation. Fellow writer Nathaniel Hawthorne said he could “never fail to recognize [the] force and originality” of Poe’s stories. Lewis Gaylord Clark hated Poe as a man, but he admitted he had “constructive faculty,” “remarkable ingenuity," and “vivid imagination.” Henry B. Hirst said he was “unrivalled as a prose writer.” On the other hand, the North American Review saw the tales as “belonging to the forcible-feeble and the shallow-profound school.”

The widespread attention "The Black Cat" received in its own time inspired numerous parodies, most notably by Thomas Dunn English in his 1844 short story "The Ghost of the Grey Tadpole." He was later renounced by Poe, who called English "a bullet-headed and malicious villain" in a letter.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the story has been adapted numerous times into nearly every genre, including film, theater productions, audio recordings, and television.