Poes use of narrator compared in the black cat and
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Poes use of narrator compared in the black cat and the cask of amontillado
Poe’s Use of First Person Narrator in The Black Cat and The Cask Of Amontillado, to create moral shock and horror
In The Black Cat, Edgar Allen Poe constructs a story in such a way that the events of the tale remain somewhat ambiguous. As the story begins, the narrator is in jail waiting to be executed for the brutal murder of his wife. At this point, the rest of the story is told in flashback from the first person point of view. Telling the story in this manner intensifies the effect of moral shock and horror where readers are invited to delve into the inner workings of the dark side of the mind. As the narrator begins to recount the occurrences that ”…have terrified—have tortured—have destroyed…”, the reader discovers that possibly “some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than his own”, will perceive “nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural cause and effects.”
Additionally, the reader discovers that the man’s personality had undergone a drastic transformation which he attributes to his abuse of alcohol and the perverse side of his nature, which the alcohol seems to evoke. The reader also discovers, with the introduction of Pluto, that the narrator is superstitious, as he recounts that his wife made “frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, that all black cats are witches in disguise.” Even though the narrator doesn’t believe this, we become increasingly aware of his superstitious belief as the story continues.
Superstition has it that Satan and witches assume the form of black cats. For those who believe, such as his wife, they are symbols of bad luck, death, crafts and spirits. Appropriately, the narrator refers to his cat as Pluto, who was the god of the dead in Greek Mythology.
Within the first few paragraphs, the narrator foreshadows that he will violently harm his wife, “at length, I even offered her personal violence” While making a case for the logical as well as the supernatural, the narrator’s state of mind is key. All events are described for readers by an alcoholic who has a distorted view of reality. The narrator goes to great lengths to explain the meaning of the cat in the wall; however, the chain of events that he re-creates in his mind may be relying on the supernatural explanation and therefore, easier to accept.
Once again, the reader wonders if the narrator’s perceptions can be believed as he describes the pattern upon the chest of the second cat. This could be just a hallucination. Or the instance in which the initial discovery of the cat behind the cellar, where the police searched for it and it did not make a sound until the narrator rapped heavily with a cane on the wall. “Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb.” These are examples of the dark side of the narrator and adds a twist to the story because he is hoping that readers will be convinced that these events were not just the “ordinary successions of very natural causes and effects.”
In comparison, The Cask of Amontillado was also written from the perspective of first person point of view. This time, Poe writes the story from Montresor’s ideas, who vows revenge against Fortunato in an effort to support his time-honored family motto :”Nemo me impune lacessit” (Or, No one can attack me without punishment) Poe does not intend, however for the reader to sympathize with Montresor because of the wrong-doings Fortunato has imposed upon him, but instead to judge him. As in The Black Cat, telling the story from his point of view intensifies the effect of moral shock and horror once again, and the reader is invited to perceive the inner workings of a sinister mind.
Poe’s story is a case of pre-meditated murder. The reader becomes quickly aware of the fact that Montresor is not a reliable narrator, and that he has a tendency to hold grudges and exaggerate terribly, as he refers to
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Fiction, Short stories, Literature, Fiction with unreliable narrators, Point of view, Style, The Cask of Amontillado, The Black Cat, Unreliable narrator, Edgar Allan Poe, Narration, Nemo me impune lacessit
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