The False Account of the Black Cat

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The short story “The Black Cat,” by Edgar Allen Poe, plays off the fear and trepidation of readers by sharing the details of a horrific murder through the killer’s point of view. However, several details in the story, such as the decay of the body, the police’s presence, and the appearance of a second cat, allude to the idea that the tale may in fact not be true, and cause the reader to doubt the reliability of the narrator. By implying that the narrator is indeed lying, Poe puts into question the sanity of the speaker, while also suggesting the need of a scape goat, in a second cat, to retain innocence. Poe tries to invoke the fear within the reader by creating a very insightful description of the narrator’s wife’s dead body, buried in the wall of the cellar, which highlights his deceiving nature. After the discovery of his wife’s corpse, the narrator describes the scene grotesquely with, “The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators” (70). This description would seem to imply that the dead body was concealed for multiple days, or even weeks. However, the narrator mentions earlier in the story that it has only been four short days; certainly not enough time for so much decomposition to occur. In her article “Untold Story: The Lying Narrator in ‘The Black Cat’” Susan Amper argues that decay would take an even longer period of time due to the location of the body. According to Amper, “It is inconceivable that a body, walled up immediately upon death in a cool basement, should become ‘greatly decayed’ in the short space of three days. On the contrary, protected from the heat and insects that promote decay, and preserved even from dehydration in the damp cellar, the corpse would have remained in excellent condition, not just for days but weeks. Unless we are prepared to make the apparently groundless supposition that the narrator is either mistaken or lying about the condition of the corpse, we can only


Bibliography: Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

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