The narrator of Poe's “The Black Cat” is a murderer penning a confession on the eve of his execution. This much he admits. He also believes he is the victim of a malevolent, supernatural being, a witching cat—the doppelgänger of a cat the narrator hanged. In the end, this second cat, the narrator claims, fiendishly worked his undoing by tormenting him mercilessly, using its “craft” to seduce him into murder. T. O. Mabbott, in fact, calls this narrative “a story of ‘orthodox’ witchcraft.” Still, the narrator's word choices and paragraphing offer evidence of another hypothesis. The being who tormented the narrator, his “incarnate Night-Mare,” was not the second cat, as such, but the narrator's wife. In his story, the narrator unwittingly reveals his psychological motivation, which, in part, involves his perception of a confederacy between the wife and the second cat—which is not to say that a coherent case for this motivation can disregard the narrator's otherworldly dread. Nevertheless, from his initial discussion of domestic life to his characterization of the murder as an assassination, the narrator rhetorically reveals enough about his inner thoughts, including his sexual discontent, for a reader to hypothesize that the narrator's crime against his wife was personal.

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