Министерство общего и профессионального образования
And my soul from out that shadow that lies
floating on the floor
Shall be lifted--nevermore!
The text of emotive prose, which has been chosen for analysis, is Edgar Allan Poe’s “The black cat”, which is a perverse grotesque short story.
First of all we would like to say a few words about the author. Edgar Alan Poe was born in 1809 and died in 1849; he lived only 40 years, but during his brief lifetime, he made a permanent place for himself in American literature and also in world’s literature. He is a clearly product of his time, which in terms of literature, is called the Romantic era. Poe’s brand of Romanticism was akin to his contemporaries but most of his works often bordered on what was later called the gothic genre.
Throughout Edgar Allan Poe’s life, many factors have contributed and influenced his writing style. As it is known, Poe was a manic depressive, a dope addict, an epileptic, and an alcoholic. He lived a difficult life, because he was raised in a dysfunctional household. This is not the main factor to his intriguing writing style, but it is a main factor in the understanding of Poe. He was raised by a stepfather who did not love him, or he dictated his Victorian values so exhaustively that it warped young Allen’s impressionable mind. But the final product of Edgar Allen Poe’s mind is printed in his short stories and poems. Edgar Allen Poe’s stories all have similar motifs and composition that would suggest suppressed emotions from life experiences are being discharged through his writings. Three main motifs that can be related back to his psyche are: the old man/father figure, his obsessions on an object, and his relations to death. Throughout his life he strove to not be like his stepfather, and to be a better person than his stepfather. In the least, he wanted all memories of him and his ways out of his life. Therefore, he oppressed the memories and when the sub-conscience part of his mind is working on writing, this motif appears.
Best known for his poems and short fiction, Edgar Allan Poe deserves more credit than any other writer for the transformation of the short story from anecdote to art. He virtually created the detective story and perfected the psychological thriller. He also produced some of the most influential literary criticism of his time--important theoretical statements on poetry and the short story--and has had a worldwide influence on literature.
More than any of Poe’s stories, “The Black Cat” illustrates best the capacity of the human mind to observe its own deterioration and the ability of the mind to comment upon its own destruction without being able to objectively halt that deterioration. The narrator of “The black cat” is fully aware of his mental deterioration, and at certain points in the story he, recognizes the change that is occurring within him and he tries to do something about it but he finds himself unable to reverse hi falling into madness.
In Poe’s critical essay “The Philosophy of composition” he wrote about the importance of creating a unity or totality of effect in this story. By this he meant that the writer should decide what effect he wants to create in a story and in the reader’s emotional response and then precede to use all of his creative powers to achieve that particular effect.
In “The black cat” it is obvious that the chief effect that Poe wanted to achieve was a sense of absolute and total perverseness. Clearly many of the narrator’s acts are without logic or motivation; they are merely acts of perversity.
In virtually all of Poe’s tales we know nothing about the narrator’s background; this particular story is no exception. The narrator begins his story by asserting that he is not mad: “Yet mad am I not” and at the same time he wants to place before the world a logical outline of the events that “have terrified – have tortured – have destroyed me”. And during the process of proving that he is not mad we see increasingly the actions of a madman who knows that he is going mad but who at times is able to objectively comment on the process of his increasing madness.
In this story the narrator begins his confession in retrospect at a time when he was considered to be a perfectly normal person known for his docility and his humane considerations of animals and people. Since his wife often made allusions to the popular notion that all black cats are witches in disguise the name Pluto (who in Greek and Roman mythology was the god of the dead and the ruler of the underworld) becomes significant in terms of entire story. Superstition has it that Satan and witches assume the form of black cats. For those who believe, they are symbols of bad luck, death, sorcery, witchcraft, and the spirits of the dead. The other popular notion relevant to this story is the believe that a cat has nine lives; this superstition becomes a part of the story when the second black cat is believed to be a reincarnation of the dead Pluto with only one slight but horrible modification – the imprint of the gallows on its breast.
Interestingly, Pluto was the narrator’s favorite animal and for several years there was a very special relationship between the animal and the narrator. Than suddenly (due partly to alcohol) the narrator underwent a significant change. “I grew day by day more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others”. The effect of this change is indicated when he came home intoxicated, imagined that the beloved cat avoided him, than grasped the cat by its throat and with a penknife, cut out one of its eyes. This act of perversity is the beginning of several such acts that will characterize the totality of effect that Poe wanted to achieve in this story.
The next morning, he writes, he was horrified by what he had done, and in time the cat recovered but now it deliberately avoided the narrator. As the cat continued to avoid the narrator, the spirit of the perverseness overcame him again – this time, with an unfathomable longing of the soul to “offer violence…to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only”. Suddenly one morning, he slipped a noose around the neck of the cat and hang from the limb of a tree, but even while doing it, tears streamed down his face. He is ashamed of his perversity because he knows that t5he cat had loved him and had given him no reason to kill it. What he did was an act of pure perversity.
That night, after the cruel deed was executed his house burned to the ground. Being a rational and analytical person, narrator refuses to see a connection between his perverse atrocity of killing the cat and the disaster that consumed his house.
Again we have an example offering up a rational rejection of any superstitious that the burning of the house might be retribution for his killing the cat. However on the following day, he visited the ruins of the house and saw a crowd of people gathered about. One wall, which had just been replastered and was still wet, was still standing. It was the wall just above where his bed had previously stood and engraved into the plaster was a perfect of the figure of the gigantic cat, and there was a rope about the animal’s neck.
Once again, the narrator’s mad mind attempts to offer a rational explanation for this phenomena. He believes that someone found the cat’s dead body, flung it into the burning house to awaken the narrator, and the burning of the house, the falling of the walls, and the ammonia from the carcass (cats are filled with ammonia; Poe wrote essays on cats, their instincts, their logic, and their habits) – all these factors contributed to the creation of the graven image. But the narrator does not account for the fact that the image is that of a gigantic cat; thus we must assume that the image took on gigantic proportions only within the mind of the narrator.
One night, he was drinking heavily; he saw another black cat that looked exactly like Pluto – except for a splash of white on its breast. Gradually he began to loathe the cat. What increased his loathing of the new cat was that it had, like Pluto, one of its eyes missing. In the mind of the narrator, this cat was obviously a reincarnation of Pluto. He even notes to himself that the one trait that had once distinguished him – a humanity of feeling had now almost totally disappeared. This is an example of how the mad man can stand at a distance and watch the process of his own change and madness.
The final irony, of course, is that the cat which he had come to so despise – the cat that might have been the reincarnation of Pluto – serves as a figure of retribution against the murderer. By the end of the story, therefore, we can see how the narrator in commenting on his own actions, convicts himself of the madness which he vehemently declaimed at the beginning of the story.
The text of the story is not homogenous: the author’s narration is interrupted by the single speech of the main character; inner thoughts are imperceptibly interwoven with the narration. The type of narration is entrusted narrative as the whole text is told from the first person. The type of the character drawing is indirect for the author does not give direct and exact description of his characters, letting the readers guess by themselves. Although several characters are mentioned in this story, the true focus lies upon the nameless narrator.
As the story begins, the narrator is in jail awaiting for his execution, which will occur on the following day, for the brutal murder of his wife. The rest of the story is told in flashback, as the narrator pens the most wild, yet homely narrative, events of which have terrified – have tortured – have destroyed him. The action takes place in the old building made of bricks, it is important to note that there was a cellar where he killed his wife. Committing crimes the narrator does not differentiate the period of time – is it the morning or the night and that shows that he is becoming mad. Throughout the whole text the reader can feel predominating black colors, which create gloomy atmosphere. The narrator is so absorbed in his own world that he does not notice his wife and does not talk to her at all. We do not observe any conversations in the text with only one exception, when he addresses to the policemen. What is somewhat strange is the fact that the police searched the cellar several times, and not one time did the cat make a sound. It was not until the narrator rapped heavily with a cane upon the wall, that the cat responded. And at the end of the story terrible sound – inhumane howl, a wailing shriek which seemed to rise only out of hell – broke the dead silence.
The text can be logically divided into 6 parts:
According to this division the text has closed plot structure. The main character is unknown narrator and the minor characters are his wife, the cat and the policemen.
In first SPU “Terrible confession” we get acquainted with the narrator and become aware of his confession. This SPU coincides with the paragraph, which represents introduction. SPU has 2 lexico-thematic chains. The first, “Narrator”, embraces 158 items throughout the whole text. The second LTC “Events” is represented by 9 components. By word “events” we mean the events which happened to the narrator and which he wanted to place before the world, a mere household events. It’s necessary to выделить “Events” into the separate LTC because they “have terrified – have tortured – have destroyed” the narrator.
The second SPU is titled “Happy time”. Here we get some information about the narrator’s infancy and youth. This SPU doesn’t coincide with the paragraph as it includes two paragraphs, which are linked together asyndetically. Also it must be noted that this SPU is exposition. It has 2 LTCs. The first one “Partiality for domestic pets” has 11 items. It tells us about his childhood. His parents indulged his fondness for animals and he was allowed to have many different kinds of pets. The second LTC “wife” has 3 components. It tells that he was very fortunate to marry a woman who was also fond of animals.
The third SPU is called “Cat”. Here we learn that among the many animals that they possessed was a black cat, which they named Pluto. The SPU doesn’t coincide with the paragraph for it has 5 whole paragraphs and a half of the next one. The paragraphs are connected asyndetically. The SPU has 4 LTCs. The first LTC “Cat” is developed in 152 items throughout the whole text. It tells about the black cat, his favorite pet and playmate. The second LTC “Alcohol” consists of 13 components. It tells about his main disease, which grew upon him – it was Alcohol what was the reason of his madness. The third LTC “Fury” is represented by 8 items. The fury of Demon possessed him and his original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from the body when the cat inflicted a slight wound upon his hand with his teeth. So seized by fury he cut out an eye of the cat. The fourth LTC “Half of horror, half of remorse” embraces 7 items. Here the narrator has equivocal feeling of his deed.
The fourth SPU is titled «Запр плод сладок ». Here the main idea of the text is revealed as here we get acquainted with the narrator’s persuasion that all the people found themselves committing a vile or silly action for no other reason than because they know they should not. The SPU does not coincide with the paragraph, as it is less than a paragraph. It traces out 1 LTC. The LTC “The spirit of perverseness” embraces 11 items.
The fifth SPU is called “Cruel deed”. In this SPU the narrator discloses the hanging of the cat. The SPU does not coincide with the paragraph. It has 1 LTC, which is called “Committing a crime”, and this LTC consists of 11 components. It was said that the narrator hung a cat with the tears streaming from his eyes. Also it is necessary to mention that the word “because” is repeated for several times and is given in italics, as the narrator tries to justify himself.
The sixth SPU “Fire” tells that one night there was a fire, which had destructed the narrator’s house completely except one wall. The SPU does not coincide with the paragraph. It is represented by 2 LTC. The first LTS “Flame” is developed in 6 components and covers 6 sentences. The second LTC “Cause and effect” includes 8 items and has 4 sentences. Key sentence here is: “One night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire”. We found it at the beginning of the paragraph; that’s why it belongs to deductive type of the paragraph. This sentence points out the fact that the fire took place on the night of a cruel deed. This fact makes the reader feel that the fire wasn’t an occasion, but was the punishment for a committed crime.
The seventh SPU “The wall” describes single wall, which stood about the middle of the house. The SPU does not coincide with the paragraph. It has 3 LTC. First LTC “Exception” has 4 items. Second LTC “Dense crowd” embraces 3 components. Here we see that many people gathered there at the sight of the strange figure, the figure of a gigantic cat, with a rope about the its neck. Then we gradually get down to the third LTC “The figure” which has 3 items.
In the eighth SPU “Obsession” we become aware of the fact that the narrator could not get rid of the phantasm of the cat. The SPU does not coincide with the paragraph for it includes 2 ones. It consists of 3 LTCs. The first LTC “Apparition” embraces 4 components, which stretches within 1 sentence. The second LTC “Presupposition” is developed in 5 items and covers 4 sentences. The narrator thinks over possible ways of the getting the cat into the house. The third LTC is “False remorse”. 5 components are founded here in 3 sentences. The narrator feels a spirit half-sentiment that seemed, but was not, remorse. Key sentence here is: “When I first beheld this apparition – for I could scarcely regard it as less – my wonder and terror were extreme”. From this sentence it becomes obvious to the reader that the narrator firstly connected the two facts together that brought him into terror. Key sentence is placed in the 1st sentence of the SPU; that’s why it is deductive type of the paragraph.
The ninth SPU “Black object” tells about the new black cat which was closely resembling Pluto and even was deprived of one of his eyes; but this cat had a large indefinite splotch of white on its breast. The SPU includes 9 paragraphs and 3 LTCs. The first “Some black object” is represented by 16 items. The second “Dislike” has 22 components. It reveals the narrator’s change towards the cat. The third LTC “Dread of he beast” traces out 19 items. Here we learn that the narrator becomes absolutely frightened of the beast and that feeling was strengthened with the image of the gallows.
The tenth SPU “Murder” depicts the killing of the wife and the matter of concealing the body. The SPU embraces 4 paragraphs and 3 LTCs. The first LTC “Cellar” has 3 items. It stretches within 2 sentences. The narrator describes his going into the cellar of the building. The second “Rage” is represented by 12 components and has 2 sentences. It serves to show the narrator’s madness because of which he takes an axe and buried it in wife’s brain. The third LTC “Task of concealing the body” is developed in 33 items. It is presented by 19 sentences. Here the narrator looks for the ways to hide the body. And finally he decided to deposit carefully the body against the inner wall. Key sentence here is: “Goaded, by the interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain”. This sentence depicts the scene of the murder. Key sentence is at the end of the 1st paragraph of the SPU; that’s why it is deductive type of the paragraph.
The eleventh SPU is “Next step”. The SPU has 2 paragraphs and 1 LTC. The LTC is titled “Search” and it traces out 12 items. Here the narrator looks for the cat. Next on the police comes to him to institute.
The twelfth SPU “Police” is employed to show the result less investigations and that the narrator feels no embarrassment whatever. It doesn’t coincide with a paragraph as it includes 2 paragraphs that are linked together asyndetically. It has 3 LTCs. The first LTC “Rigorous investigation” is represented by 6 components. 7 items are found in the second LTC “Triumph”. The glee of his heart was too strong to be restrained, and through the mere phrenzy of bravado he begins to rap heavily on the brick wall. This is the third LTC called “phrenzy of bravado” which has 5 items.
The 13th SPU “Answer” discloses unexpected turn of the action. The SPU coincides with the paragraph. There is 1 LTC “Voice”, which has 15 components. The voice was a continuous scream, a howl, and a wailing shriek.
The fourteenth SPU is “Judgment day”. Here the narrator introduces us with the object, which produces those terrible sounds. The SPU doesn’t coincide with a paragraph; it has one LTC “hideous beast”. There are 7 components. It’s important to note that this very SPU includes climax and denouement of the whole story.
Now we’d like to analyze one SPU in a more detailed way. It’ the third SPU “Cat”. As we have mentioned above it has 4 LTCs, includes 5 and half of paragraph. In the first paragraph the key-sentence is “This latter was remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree.” And it is situated at the top of paragraph what shows the deductive type of paragraph. The next paragraph is of deductive type because the key sentence is at the top of the paragraph also: “Pluto – this was the cat’s name – was my favorite pet and playmate.” The key-sentence in the third paragraph is at the top of it, so it is deductive type of paragraph. This paragraph is the biggest one in this very SPU. The key-sentence runs as follows: “Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character – through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance – had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse.” In the forth paragraph the key-sentence has medial position and that shows the inductive-deductive type of paragraph: “The fury of a demon instantly possessed me.” The fifth paragraph is of deductive type, it sounds as: “When reason returned with the morning – when I had slept off the fumes of the night’s debauch – I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched.” And at least the half of the paragraph, which we included into this SPU. The key sentence occupies medial position so the paragraph is of inductive-deductive type: “And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of Perverseness.”
The paragraphs are knit together asyndetically as we have here no conjunctions. Lexical-connection signals include the following examples: pronominal substitution – “my wife – she, the cat - he”; lexical repetition – “ I – I”; repetitions accompanied by a change of grammatical form and function of a word - “she – her, my pets – them, Pluto - him”; periphrastic repetition – “cat – latter, disease – Alcohol, cat – the poor beast”. Grammatical connection signals include such examples: uniformity of tense, aspect, and mood forms of the verb throughout the SPU: “I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house.” Semantic interdependence between the sentences of text involves repetition of a certain ungrammatical meaning. The main cases of semantic correlation between words and phrases in the text are: occasional synonym: “cat - playmate”.
Next we’d like to pass to the examples of stylistic devices. The SPU is abounded in them. For instance, the examples of periphrasis “latter”, “playmate”, “animal”, “creature”, “beast” are employed instead of the word “cat” in order to underline the narrator’s changing attitude towards his pet. The example of another stylistic device, simile “all black cats as witches in disguise” is used to intensify the mysterious effect of the whole story. The second example of simile “disease is like Alcohol” is employed for the purpose to characterize the reason of the narrator’s cruel deeds also it underlines that alcohol enslaves human mind and absorbs his soul. Also we have here a brilliant example of metaphor “I … drowned in wine all memory of the deed” which also clearly shows the narrator’s partiality to Alcohol. Wonderful example of epithet “The Fiend Intemperance” is used here to disclose that narrator could not resist temptation to drink. The example of repetition “half of horror, half of remorse” shows that the narrator feels either regret or fear. Further on it is necessary to pay attention to the bright examples of gradation: “more moody, more irritable, more regardless”, “I blush – I burn – I shudder” which strengthen all that incandescence of the situation. Also it is important to note that there are a lot of examples of words in italics and it shows that the narrator underlines the importance of the words.
Theme-rheme structure is of parallel type. “One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him: when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more that fiendish malevolence, ginnurtured thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat pocket a penknife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity”.
T - R
T - R
T - R
T - R
T - R
T - R
T - R
This type of theme-rheme structure is often used in description, also it must be noted that it helps to maintain some monotonous rhythm, emphasizing personal pronoun “I”, id est attention of the reader is concentrated on the narrator and his actions.
“The Black cat” illustrates many manifestations and vehicles that the perverse can assume. First the narrator succumbs to alcohol; then the narrator’s spirit of perversity, given a foothold in his psyche, causes the eventual decline in his temperament.
In the “Black cat” he was obsessed with the killing of the cat. He was not afraid of the police, but their presence there pushed him over the edge. Like in “Crime and Punishment” Raskolnikov thought that he had committed the perfect murder, but it turns out that he deteriorates until he has to confess. Likewise, the narrator thinks that he has made such an immaculate job in cleaning up the body that nobody will find him, but he never considers the “x-factor”. That is characteristic of someone that is extremely compulsive; they will act without thinking about the variables in the “equation”. Yet, this obsessive, compulsive attitude is part of Poe’s personality, and therefore is expressed through his writing.
The most prominent feature of Edgar Allen Poe’s writing is his obsession with death. He is afraid to die, and yet he does not think highly of his lifetime. Poe was always under the domineering control of his stepfather, and when he was independent, he did not know what to do. And the only thing that Poe obsesses about in his stories is about death, and facing death, because even though he wants to evade it, subconsciously that is all he has to wait for. Poe’s writing does more than entertain the reader. It can be an insight into the dark and somber world of Edgar Allen Poe. One does not understand the meaning of Poe if one reads at the superficial level. One has to read into Poe, and understand the hardships of his life and how he maintained them that way. He knew that death was an inevitable part of life, it is the price of life, but he tried to fight it as if it was an unnatural part of life. He was an extremely intriguing man from all viewpoints, and he was and is, the dark side of all of us.
Again, Poe employs language, which can send a traditional moralist howling about the wages of sin. But catch the subjunctive, “if such a thing were possible”. Poe makes it clear, even in this extreme set of circumstances, that he does not believe it possible to be beyond the reach of God.
“The black cat” is one of the most powerful of Poe’s stories, and the horror stops short of the wavering line of disgust”. Poe constructed this story in such a way that the events of the tale remain somewhat ambiguous.
The main idea of the text is that Evil is always punished and the man cannot avoid his fate. No matter how hard the criminal tries to conceal his deeds, the truth will come out anyway. All our life is fuss, we constantly hurry, and commit different deeds and do not notice that some of them are immoral, but even if we realize the indecency we still make it out of spite. “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? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such?”
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