Compare And Contrast The Black Cat And The Tell Tale Heart

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Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” are frightening stories told by nameless narrators. Both narrators, who are clearly disturbed, commit murder in the stories. Through the narrators’ accounts of the events leading up to their respective crimes, Poe’s tales explore themes of abnormal psychology and give the reader insight into the minds and thought processes of two fictional perpetrators of homicide. The two narrators are very similar in their character and in their actions, and both of their stories reflect Romantic ideology. By acting irrationally, blaming their actions on things other than themselves, and assuring the reader that they are sane despite copious evidence to the contrary, both the narrator of “The Tell-Tale …show more content…
In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” after the narrator murders the old man with whom he lives and hides the old man’s dismembered body underneath the floorboards of the bedroom, he imagines the dead man’s heart beating (Poe 694). In “The Black Cat,” after hanging and killing his first cat Pluto, the narrator imagines that his second cat’s white spot turns into the shape of a gallows (Poe 699). It is arguable that these auditory and visual hallucinations are the product of the narrators’ guilty conscience. The narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” hears the sound of the dead man’s heartbeat while in the presence of the police, suggesting an overwhelming need to confess his terrible deed (Poe 694). Likewise, the narrator of “The Black Cat” finds the second cat and notices its white spot that looks like a gallows shortly after hanging Pluto, suggesting a feeling of remorse for what he had done to Pluto (Poe 699). Furthermore, these illusions contribute to the mental breakdown of both narrators. The imaginary heartbeat leads the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” to become so overwhelmed by guilt that he confesses his crime to the police even after convincing them of his innocence (Poe 691). Similarly, the spot that looks like a gallows causes the narrator of “The Black Cat” to become afraid of the cat that bears the spot and causes his hatred for the cat to increase as it follows him around his home day after day (Poe 699). This ultimately leads him to swing at the cat with an axe and to kill his wife with the axe after she attempts to keep him from hurting the cat (Poe 699). According to writer Veronica Mueller, “Throughout Mr. Poe’s works, his characters are usually dominated by their emotions. This characterization explains much of the erratic behavior of the characters in his stories” (Mueller). Essentially, both narrators are controlled by their emotions

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