The Black Cat

The Black Cat Literary Elements


Short Story, Fiction, Horror

Setting and Context

1843, (unnamed place, possibly U.S.), as the narrator is waiting for his execution

Narrator and Point of View

An unnamed narrator in the first person

Tone and Mood


diabolic, understated, unconcerned, abhorring, excited


gloomy, suspenseful, vengeful, nightmarish, erratic

Protagonist and Antagonist

The narrator is the protagonist as well as the antagonist.

Major Conflict

What does the cat actually mean to the narrator: is there some dark, malevolent, or inhuman aspect to the animal(s), or can the things that happen to the narrator be explained by natural cause and effect?


When the narrator murders his wife with an ax


1. The appearance of the image of the black cat on the narrator's wall foreshadows the animal's haunting of his steps.
2. The fact that a new cat appears when the narrator wants one, the fact that it looks like the old one, and the fact that no one knows where it came from foreshadow the animal's role in bringing down the narrator—and to the cat possibly being of supernatural origin.


The narrator calls his abusive and cruel behavior towards his animals and the murder of his wife "a series of mere household events."


1. Pluto is the Roman god of death.
2. The narrator's wife references the medieval stereotype of black cats being witches in disguise.
3. There are several allusions to the Devil.
4. A chimera is, in Greek mythology, a fire-breathing monster with a serpent's tail, a goat's body, and a lion's head.


See separate Imagery entry of this ClassicNote.




1. The second black cat looks almost exactly like the first, even missing one eye.
2. The narrator grows weary of both the cats he adopts: the one who hated him before and the one who becomes too friendly.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

In the next, a dozen stout arms were toiling at the wall": the dozen stout arms represent the policemen in an instance of synecdoche.


1. "The feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed."
2. "My very senses reject their own evidence"