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Edgar Allen Poe - Cause and Effect

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Edgar Allen Poe - Cause and Effect

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  • September 22, 2005
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Edgar Allan Poe wrote that the single effect was the most important aspect of a short story, which 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. This is 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...