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The Black Cat

The Black Cat

by Edgar Allan Poe

Transformation Theme

Disturbing physical and psychological transformations – often for the worst – are characteristic of most horror and Gothic tales. In "The Black Cat" some form of transformation occurs in nearly every paragraph. For the narrator, these changes are psychological. After he gets married, his personality spirals deeper and deeper toward the dark side, cruelly abusing his pets and his wife. His initially happy home life is turned upside down, and everyone involved is adversely affected and changed for the worse. Like many horror stories, "The Black Cat" also offers the possibility of supernatural change, though this might just be a figment of his imagination, or an excuse to deflect blame from his crime. With all these levels of transformation, will Edgar Allan Poe's classic tale of woe change you too?

Questions About Transformation

  1. Who changes the most in the story? Why do you think so?
  2. In paragraph 25, after the narrator kills his wife, he imagines a variety of scenarios for transforming her corpse into a safe secret. Is this paragraph significant? How might the story be different if that passage was omitted?
  3. Do you believe there are supernatural transformations at work in this story?
  4. What are some of the psychological transformations the man describes?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The woman's transformation from passive victim to defender of the meek is marked by her defense of the black cat.

By omitting the details of the woman's physical transformation as a result of the man's abuse, this story risks misleading some readers about the nature of domestic violence.

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