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A. Digging for Facts

1. As this story begins, the narrator describes himself as having been a) subject to wild moods all his life, b) a man of many varied and changeable emotions, c) kind and humane.

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2. There is a great change in the narrator’s life which he feels is caused by a) his wife’s nagging, (b) an addiction to alcohol, c) a strain of insanity in his family.

3. This change causes a) all of his animals to shun him, b) his wife to threaten to leave him, c) his employer to give him warning about his job.

4. The narrator, enraged at the treatment he is receiving, a) cuts his cat’s eye out, b) sets fire to his home, c) turns himself in for treatment.

5. The narrator hangs his pet from a tree because a) the cat was old and crippled, b) the cat had loved him, c) the cat had bitten him.

6. That night, a) the narrator finally feels a sense of permanent peace, b) the house catches fire, c) his wife reproaches his for his sick behavior.

7. Following this incident, neighbors note a) how much the man’s wife is suffering, b) the great improvement in the man, c) the impression of a cat on the bedroom wall

8. The narrator seeks another cat, takes it home and finds a) that it seems to love him very much, b) that it is beginning to take on haunting characteristics of the previous pet, c) both of these

9. The narrator a) kills his wife in a temper because she defends the cat, b) becomes an arsonist, destroying his neighbors’ homes, c) finally decides he must reform his life.

10. At the end, the cat a) calls the attention of the police to the narrator’s crime, b) is killed by the narrator, c) wins the real affection of the man.

B. Probing for Theme
Reading the three thematic statements below and check which one best applies to “The Black Cat”

____1. Often there is a perverseness in human nature which seems to delight in doing what is wrong for no other reason than because it is wrong.

____ 2. Cruelty to nature will be avenged.

_____ 3. Forces of evil are often unleashed by degeneracy.

C. In Search of Meaning

1. Why does the narrator say that he does not expect his story to be believed? Are not his experiences, in fact, “nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects”?

2. The narrator also states that he is not mad. Is this true? Do you consider his actions and reaction to be those of a sane person?
3. Do you agree with the narrator when he says that an inclination toward evil is a basic part of every human personality? Have you ever done something wrong just because you knew you shouldn’t?

4. As the cat becomes increasingly fond of the narrator, what happens to the narrator’s feelings toward the cat? Does this have anything to do with the narrator’s previous actions?

5. The narrator mentions that he murdered the first cat with the bitterest remorse. Yet, when he murders his own wife he feels no remorse whatsoever, but rather a triumph over how cleverly he has concealed his deed. What does this indicate about the narrator’s personality and state of mind?

D. Vocabulary
Here are more words that may not have been clear to you when you read the story. First, you will see the original world. After you have read the phrase, select the correct meaning from the four possible choices.

1. docility “From my infancy, I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition”

______a. gentleness b. excitability c. stubbornness d. weakness

2. paltry “… who has frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.”

______ a. strong b. trivial c. condescending d. valuable

3. perverseness “And then, as if to my final irrevocable overthrow, the sprit of perverseness.”

_______a. unhappiness b. waywardness c. hatred d. weakness’

4. jeopardize “…a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it – if such a thing were possible—even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of that Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.”

______ a. condemn b. curse c. change d. endanger

5. conflagration “It was with great difficulty that my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration.”

______ a. danger b. fire c. explosion d. avalanche

From the list of vocabulary words, choose the appropriate word for the blank in each of the following sentences. Please BOLD the word you write in the sentence.

a. infamy b. chimeras c. succumbed d. tranquilly e. felicity
f. bravado g. clotted h. gore i. goaded j. demoniacal

1. The sailboats floated _________________ on the calm surface of the lake.

2. The madman’s _______________ rage was horrifying to see.

3. These troubles may have seemed mere __________________ to everyone else, but they were very real to me.

4. Bob’s ______________________ was the result of the announcement that he had made the team.

5. The blood from the would soon __________________ to slow down further bleeding.

6. I had thought I would be a doctor, until my friend cut himself and the sight of all that _______________ upset me.

7. Jon covered hi fright with a great show of _____________________.

8. The ________________ of certain outlaws in the Old West was well known.

9. He fought hard to keep from giving in, but finally ________________ to the constant pressure.

10. Her friends _________________________ her into accepting the challenge.


The author of “The Black Cat” uses many devices to let the reader know the state of mind of the narrator. Write your own paragraph describing this tortured man. Be able to support your description with specific passages from the story.

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