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The Black Cat Discussion Questions

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Are your students ready to be frightened by a tale of the macabre? 'The Black Cat' is a dark thriller by master short story teller Edgar Allan Poe, and these discussion questions will assist you in teaching the subject.

Discussion of the Back Cat

'The Black Cat' is a chilling tale of madness and suspense by the master of the macabre Edgar Allan Poe. In the short story, we see the transformation of a self-proclaimed animal lover into a monstrous human being who torments his pets as well as his wife. The tale quickly builds to a crescendo and concludes in a surprising fashion which seems to mete out justice to the unlikeable narrator. The reader might be left to decide if the narrator ever was an animal lover and good person in the first place. Use these discussion questions to delve into the plot and theme.

Questions About the Plot

  • In the first line, the narrator describes the tale as a most 'homely' one. What do you think of that word being used to describe a story? Have you ever heard it used to describe any other story?
  • The narrator says he is not mad and does not dream. Do you believe him on either count? Why or why not?
  • The narrator says he is to die on the morrow. At that point, did you think he was ill?
  • Did you wonder why he had a pet monkey, but he said the cat was the one that followed him around the most? Didn't that seem odd and unlikely?
  • What does the 'fiend intemperance' mean?
  • Did you wonder why the wife stayed with the man after he became a mean alcoholic?
  • The narrator cried as he killed the cat. Why do you think he did?
  • Why do you think the fire happened the same night as the cat's death? Is it ever really explained in the story?
  • What exactly is a bas-relief?
  • The original cat was all black, but the new cat had a white splotch. What is Poe trying to signify?
  • Why did the narrator resent the new cat so much?
  • How did you react when you found the couple lived in poverty? Did you think they were well-to-do up until that point?
  • How shocked were you when he killed his wife instead of the cat?
  • He never mentioned cleaning up the blood. Would this have been hard to conceal?
  • Where did the man tap the wall with his cane? Was that just a coincidence, or was it from a subconscious feeling of guilt, remorse, and shame?
  • Do you find it ironic that at the end the man still called the cat 'a monster?' Do you know what the psychological term 'projection' means?
  • Were you glad at the end when the cat gave the narrator away to the police? Is it okay to feel that way about a person who does bad things?

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