In “The Black Cat,” Poe created a narrator who lacks remorse, empathy, and a conscience, a character who deceives and manipulates those around him because of an impulsive, egocentric personality known as psychopathy. In the beginning, the narrator explains that he will die the next day for murdering his wife; however, readers soon understand he has no living relatives who care about his guilt or innocence, calling into question audience and purpose. While readers might wonder if he hopes for a stay of execution, this thought will soon pass because he admits to the murder and provides grisly, perverse details of the crime. When readers juxtapose the narrator's words and actions with current forensic research on psychopathy—especially with the research of Robert D. Hare, audience and purpose become clear. Moreover, Hare's research—when compared and contrasted with literary scholars such as Richard Badenhausen, Susan Amper, Joseph Stark, and John Cleman—also highlights Poe's political and scientific acumen along with his literary skill at creating a character that readers during the 1840s would have understood in light of the legal debates concerning the insanity defense. Poe created a textbook psychopathic personality, leaving out none of the traits, even though the currently accepted definition of psychopathy was not agreed upon until the early 1990s. Through this narrator, Poe reveals the inner workings of a criminal type that public defenders of Poe's time, along with scientists and the public, agreed should not be held accountable for their crimes.

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