What Is the Theme of “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe?
Some themes of “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe include mixed emotions, loyalty, death, transformation, justice, illusions, guilt, relationships and superstition. In the story, a black cat leads the narrator down a path of insanity as a personification of all that he hates. As the narrator falls more into alcoholism, his grip on reality loosens more and, by the end of the story, he is consumed with guilt about the murder of his wife.
“The Black Cat” was first published in “The Saturday Evening Post” on August 19, 1843. As with “The Tell-Tale Heart,” it is an exploration of guilt. The black cat, named Pluto, represents the theme of superstition, as black cats are often associated with bad luck.
The theme of loyalty appears in the relationship of the narrator and the black cat. The cat is his favorite pet, but as he increasingly has hallucinations of the black cat, his pet becomes his enemy. The narrator is transformed through his alcoholism, which is the true cause of his insanity. In fits of rage, he goes on to murder his cat and then his wife, who had remained loyal to him during his madness. The narrator covers up his crime, but eventually he is overcome with guilt and reveals what he has done.