Edgar Allan Poe
Annotations & Analysis
DUE DATE: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2017
Directions: Read the Edgar Allan Poe story of your choice. After reading, reread and annotate. Once you annotate you will compose an original analysis of the short story focusing in on a question or literary device of your choice.
10 literal thoughts - you must point out the significance for the sentence or word.
10 inferential thoughts - you must explain the idea and your own interpretation (inference)
10 critical thoughts - you must thoroughly discuss the importance and your own thoughts on the example.
1000 word minimum written essay
Summary should not be dominant throughout.
Your own thoughts can be woven into the analysis with textual evidence to prove them.
You must use textual evidence throughout your analysis.
You must focus in on a theme, motif, allegorical idea, character, or literary device of your choice.
You must look at the author’s purpose throughout in order to conduct a clear analysis.
In "The Black Cat", by Edgar Allan Poe, I understand it to be that the unnamed man is only making excuses for his actions. So people do not blame him, they instead blame excuses made him do so. The writer begins his confession looking back. To a time where he considered himself to be a normal person. Known for his "tenderness of heart" and his merciful considerations of animals and people. His parents encouraged his mercy for animals, and he acquired many different kinds of pets. He was lucky to marry a woman who resembled himself. In the sense that she cared for animals too. Among the many pets that they possessed in their marriage was a black cat named Pluto. Since his wife often hinted at the popular idea that all black cats are "witches in disguise", the name Pluto (which is the name of a Roman god of the underworld) becomes important throughout the entire story. Another popular idea relating to this story is the belief that cat's have nine lives. This superstition becomes a part of the story when the second black cat— believed to be a reincarnation of Pluto— has an imprint of the gallows on its chest.
It is alluring to believe Pluto was the writer's favorite animal and for many years, there was a very special relationship between the animal and him. Then "due alcohol" the man underwent a change. "I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others." To restate from introduction of the story, the writer believed that people were capable at any time of reversing their personality and falling into a state of madness at any moment. It is here that the man undergoes the reversal. The effect from this is when he came home intoxicated, imagined that his "best playmate" is avoiding him, then grasped the cat by its throat and with a knife cut out one of its eyes. This delusion is only the starting trigger for more unspeakable acts to come. This also shows the two faced-ness effect that the writer wants us to believe; so we don't blame him as a whole.
He writes later, horrified by what he had done, telling how the cat has recovered but is now avoiding him on purpose. As the cat continued to avoid the writer, the spirit of his two faced-ness reverses him again; this time, with an yearning deep inside him to "offer violence . . . to do wrong for the wrong's sake only." Without warning that morning, he put a noose around the cat's neck and hanged it from the limb of a tree, crying while doing so. He showed remorse of his determination to "offer violence" because he knows that the cat had loved him and had given him no reason to hang it. What he did was an act of the "reversal" or so he wants to us believe. The writer's house burned down shortly after.
Being a such "rational" person, the writer refused to see a connection between his dastardly act of killing his cat and the disaster of his house. Here, we have an example of the insane mind rejecting the idea that the burning of his house might be punishment for killing the cat. Yet, on the following day, he visited the ruins of the house and saw a crowd of people gathered around. A wall, standing new, re-plastered. It was the wall above where his bed had before been. Engraved in the plaster was an image of a gigantic cat with a rope around it's neck.
Once again, the writer's insane mind attempts to offer a rational explanation for this paradox. He believes that someone found the cat's dead body, flung it into the burning house to wake him up; that because of the burning of the house, the falling of the walls, and the ammonia from the body of the cat contributed to the creation of the image in the wall. So we must assume that the image hit home with the writer, because he was in such "denial" that it was his fault. For months, the narrator could not forget about his black cat. One night when he was drinking , he saw another black cat that looked like Pluto except for a patch of white on its chest. He then proceeded to take it home with him. The cat became a great favorite of his and his wife. The man's "reversal" had caused him to change again and the cat's fondness for them began to disgust him. It is now that he began to loathe the cat. What increased his loathing of the new cat was that it had looked like Pluto, with one of its eyes missing. In the mind of the writer, this cat is a reincarnation of Pluto. He even says to himself that the one trait that had at once time defined him, ( a feeling of humanity) had now almost disappeared. This is a prime example, from the introduction. Of how people were capable at any time of reversing their personality and of falling into a state of madness at any moment.
Soon, the man develops an absolute hatred of the cat. When he discovers that the white patch on its chest, which at one time was obvious, had "assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline" and was a hideous, image of the gallows. "Oh, mournful and terrible engine of Horror and of Crime — of Agony and of Death!" Here we can assume that the change occurs within the mind of the insane in the same way that he thinks this "beast" to be a reincarnation of the original Pluto. As he and his wife were going into the cellar, the cat tripped him; he grabbed an axe to kill it, but his wife stopped the blow. He then "buried the axe in her brain." This sudden gruesome act is not prepared for in any way. Many times was this pointed out that the narrator loved his wife very deeply. This part in the story shows flaw. There was no real rhyme or reason for this act as the other ones had. There was no "reversal" making me believe that he had no excuse for this. That he is truly insane and has nothing to blame it on at this point.
The man realizes that he must get rid of the body. He thought of "cutting the corpse into minute fragments," but rather than dismemberment, he decided to " Wall it up in the cellar." After having accomplished the deed and cleaning up so that nothing was detectable, the man decided to kill the cat as well. Reasonably, it had disappeared. After only three days, the writer decided that the "monster of a cat" had disappeared forever; he was now able to sleep in spite of killing his wife. This lack of guilt is ironic compared to beginning of the story. Police arrive to inspect the premises. The man became overconfident; he relishes in the fact that he has so cleverly concealed his horrible crime and so he welcomes the inspection.
But, here, in an act of crazy boastfulness, he speaks so heavily upon the bricks that entomb his wife, that to his horror, a "voice from within the tomb" answered. At first, it was a muffled and broken cry, but then it grew into an "utterly anomalous and inhuman . . . howl . . . a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the damned in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation." The police immediately began to tear down the brick wall, and they discover the rotting corpse of the writer's wife and, standing upon her head was the "hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder . . . I had walled the monster up within the tomb."
The final irony, is that the cat which he had come to despise, served as a symbol of punishment against him. By the end of the story, thus, we can see how the man, accuses himself of the insanity which he denied at the beginning of the story. Which proves to me that he is after all truly insane; he just wants to give us excuses and wants to have things to blame, so he can die with the knowledge that it wasn't really his fault.`