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Thursday, September 26, 2013

"The Black Cat" Critique

 Alex Foley
Blog Option #5

Edgar Allen Poe is arguably the most well-known Gothic author in history. His works have been studied by scholars and enjoyed by casual readers alike. In his short story, “The Black Cat” Poe uses several Gothic tropes to convey his message in an effective way.

“The Black Cat” manages to be both horrifying and fascinating at the same time. The narrator’s passive and matter-of-fact tone allows readers to form their own assumptions his personality and mental state. This connects to the Gothic motif of the Unreliable Narrator, which is described as a character who “makes an incorrect conclusion or assumption about an event that he/she witnesses (Motif Handout)”. Poe’s narrator is convinced that the appearance of a second cat affected his life, although it is unclear whether or not this cat actually existed. However, in his mind, the cat is very real.

At one point in “The Black Cat” the narrator states “Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? (Poe 80)”. This relates to the motif of Darkness as Intrinsic to Humanity. Since any reader can relate to the narrator’s statement, the reader feels horrified at having any connection to a man who mutilates animals for fun. This realization may cause readers to analyze feelings within themselves and reflect on the state of humanity as a whole.

I would give “The Black Cat” 4 ½ stars out of 5. I felt that it was sufficiently shocking and horrifying, while providing some depth to the characters. The only complaint I have is that the story is rather short and the ending is implied. While I realize that Poe did this for a specific reason, it would have been helpful to read about the investigator’s reaction to the body. This would have also helped clarify whether the second cat was actually real or just a figment of the narrator’s imagination. 

Poe, Edgar A. "The Black Cat." 1843. American Gothic Tales. Comp. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Plume, 1996. 78-86. Print.

Into to Fiction Gothic Motif Handout

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