Black (636 words) Essay

Cat By Poe
Edgar Allan Poe wrote that the single effect was the most important aspect of a
short story, that everything must contribute to this effect. Poe’s gothic tale
“The Black Cat” was written trying to achieve an effect of shocking
insanity. In this first person narrative the narrator tells of his decline from
sanity to madness, all because of an obsession with two(or possibly one) black
cats. These ebony creatures finally drive him to take the life his wife, whose
death he unsuccessfully tries to conceal. This short story easily achieved the
effect that Poe was looking for through the use of description of setting,
symbolism, plot development, diverse word choice, and detailed character
development. In most cases, the setting is usually indelible to a story, but
“The Black Cat” relies little on this element. This tale could have occurred
anywhere and can be placed in any era. This makes the setting the weakest
element of “The Black Cat.” Next, symbolism is always an integral part of
any Poe story. The most obvious of symbolic references in this story is the
cat’s name, Pluto. Many know this to be the name of Mickey Mouse’s dog, but
this is also the Roman god of the underworld. Pluto contributes to a strong
sense of hell and may even symbolize the devil himself. Another immensely
symbolic part of “The Black Cat” is the title itself, since onyx cats have
long connoted bad luck and misfortune. The most amazing thing about the
symbolism in this story or in any other of Poe’s is that there are probably
many symbols that only Poe himself ever knew were in his writings. Furthermore,
Poe’s plot development added much of the effect of shocking insanity to “The
Black Cat.” To dream up such an intricate plot of perverseness, alcoholism,
murders, fire, revival, and punishment is quite amazing. This story has almost
any plot element you can imagine a horror story containing. Who could have
guessed, at the beginning of the story, that narrator had killed his wife? The
course of events in “The Black Cat’s” plot is shockingly insane by itself!
Moreover, the words in “The Black Cat” were precisely chosen to contribute
to Poe’s effect of shocking insanity. As the narrator pens these he creates a
splendidly morbid picture of the plot. Perfectly selected, sometimes rare, and
often dark, his words create just the atmosphere that he desired in the story.

Expressions such as “apparition,” “vile haunts,” and “fiendish
malevolence” are put in all the right places. Another way that Poe used word
choice was with synonyms. The cat was not only the “black cat,” it was the”playmate,” the “beast,” the “brute,” the “apparition,” and the”monster.” Finally, character development was most important to Poe’s
effect of shocking insanity in “The Black Cat.” Without the perversely
insane narrator this story can’t exist, let alone put across an effect. It is
mentioned many times that he loves animals and that he is an alcoholic. In fact
many of his rages were caused more by alcohol rather than the black cat. The
cat(s) was also vividly developed. At one point early in “The Black Cat,”
the narrator spends two paragraphs describing the his then delightful pet. But
as the story progresses both characters change dramatically. The cat is dynamic
in that it is hung, reappears with a white splotch on its chest, and has a
different disposition than before. The narrator spirals out of control into fits
of rage and numerous hideous, unthinkable actions, commencing with the walling
up of his own wife(and unbeknownst to him the black cat too) in the cellar.

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Black (636 words) Essay
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Obviously, the setting, symbolism, plot, word choice, and character development
contributed greatly to the effect of shocking insanity in Edgar Allan Poe’s
masterpiece, “The Black Cat.” Without these, there would be no story at all.

Poe’s skillful use of all of these elements, the least of these being setting
and the greatest of these being character development, creates a shocking tale,
which has never been equaled.


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