Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Black Cat” uses an unreliable narrator to tell a story of unrelenting mental instability that ends with a killer’s self-revelation of his deadly deed.
The narrator boasts of his well-known kindness and compassion towards animals, which was mirrored by his wife. His favorite pet of theirs was a large black cat named Pluto. As the years passed, the narrator became more besotted by drink and consumed by his own cruelty and perverseness. He abused his wife and the animals.
Pluto, who was his favorite, bore the brunt of his rage. One day, the narrator cut out one of the cat’s eyes, and not long after that, he hanged the cat from the branch of his tree.
The night of the hanging, the narrator’s house caught fire and everything was lost. One remaining plaster wall featured the indent of the body of a cat, which was attributed to a neighbor throwing the cat inside the window to warn the sleepers of fire. This image utterly horrified the narrator.
Over time, the narrator began to pine for the cat. To his great delight, he found a cat that looked very similar to Pluto at a dive bar, and he took it home with him. This cat was also missing an eye, but its fur had a white patch on it, unlike Pluto’s solid black coloring.
The narrator began to despise this creature as well, and its excessive attention to him made him insensate with rage. One day, the narrator and his wife ventured into the cellar of the building where they now lived, and the cat raced past them down the stairs. The narrator swung an ax to try to kill it, but when his wife stopped him, he killed her instead. He decided to wall up her body in one of the cellar walls.
After completing his task, he felt pleased with his work and the fact that the black cat had seemingly vanished.
After four days, the police came to thoroughly investigate his place. He felt not a twinge of guilt, only confidence that his wife’s body would never be found. He tapped gleefully on the cellar walls, boasting of their construction. However, at that tapping, a terrible wailing howl came from inside the wall. The police pulled it down and found the corpse, as well as the black cat inside, staring straight at the narrator with his one eye.