BlackCat By PoeEdgar Allan Poe wrote that the single effect was the most important aspect of ashort story, that everything must contribute to this effect. Poe’s gothic tale”The Black Cat” was written trying to achieve an effect of shockinginsanity. In this first person narrative the narrator tells of his decline fromsanity to madness, all because of an obsession with two(or possibly one) blackcats. These ebony creatures finally drive him to take the life his wife, whosedeath he unsuccessfully tries to conceal.
This short story easily achieved theeffect that Poe was looking for through the use of description of setting,symbolism, plot development, diverse word choice, and detailed characterdevelopment. In most cases, the setting is usually indelible to a story, but”The Black Cat” relies little on this element. This tale could have occurredanywhere and can be placed in any era. This makes the setting the weakestelement of “The Black Cat. ” Next, symbolism is always an integral part ofany Poe story.Order now
The most obvious of symbolic references in this story is thecat’s name, Pluto. Many know this to be the name of Mickey Mouse’s dog, butthis is also the Roman god of the underworld. Pluto contributes to a strongsense of hell and may even symbolize the devil himself. Another immenselysymbolic part of “The Black Cat” is the title itself, since onyx cats havelong connoted bad luck and misfortune. The most amazing thing about thesymbolism in this story or in any other of Poe’s is that there are probablymany 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 “TheBlack Cat.
” To dream up such an intricate plot of perverseness, alcoholism,murders, fire, revival, and punishment is quite amazing. This story has almostany plot element you can imagine a horror story containing. Who could haveguessed, at the beginning of the story, that narrator had killed his wife? Thecourse of events in “The Black Cat’s” plot is shockingly insane by itself!Moreover, the words in “The Black Cat” were precisely chosen to contributeto Poe’s effect of shocking insanity. As the narrator pens these he creates asplendidly morbid picture of the plot. Perfectly selected, sometimes rare, andoften dark, his words create just the atmosphere that he desired in the story. Expressions such as “apparition,” “vile haunts,” and “fiendishmalevolence” are put in all the right places.
Another way that Poe used wordchoice 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’seffect of shocking insanity in “The Black Cat. ” Without the perverselyinsane narrator this story can’t exist, let alone put across an effect. It ismentioned many times that he loves animals and that he is an alcoholic. In factmany of his rages were caused more by alcohol rather than the black cat.
Thecat(s) was also vividly developed. At one point early in “The Black Cat,”the narrator spends two paragraphs describing the his then delightful pet. Butas the story progresses both characters change dramatically. The cat is dynamicin that it is hung, reappears with a white splotch on its chest, and has adifferent disposition than before. The narrator spirals out of control into fitsof rage and numerous hideous, unthinkable actions, commencing with the wallingup of his own wife(and unbeknownst to him the black cat too) in the cellar.
Obviously, the setting, symbolism, plot, word choice, and character developmentcontributed greatly to the effect of shocking insanity in Edgar Allan Poe’smasterpiece, “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 settingand the greatest of these being character development, creates a shocking tale,which has never been equaled.