black cat

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The Effect of the Use of Irony on the
Progress of Poe's Short Story, "The Black Cat"

This Paper will interpret a short story, "The Black Cat", by Edgar
Allan Poe. My Purpose is to show the effect of the use of irony on the progress of the short story. I Suspect that use of irony in Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Black Cat," is one of the main points which allows the hidden character of the Narrator, and the truth of the situation to be revealed and helps the reader to comprehend the story better.
In Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Black Cat," the nameless narrator begins his horrifying tale by informing his readers that he is about to relate a "series of mere household events" (FN1). He then wonders if, in the future, when his morbid tale is discussed by others considering his case, they will find it to be "nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects" (FN2).

Considering the terrible conclusion of the story, this very opening establishes an ironic tone that continues until the end of the tale. The fact that the Narrator would even wonder if his horrible story would ever be considered a "series of mere household events," and the casual, almost off-handed way he contemplates his actions immediately informs the reader that the opinion of the Narrator and the facts of the story he is relating may turn out to be something completely different from what is first presented. He tells us in the beginning of the story that "tomorrow I die." Obviously something extraordinary has taken place or he would not be in that fateful position. The reader quickly comprehends that the Narrator's opinion of the story and what actually occurred may be two very different versions of some gruesome event. The fact that the Narrator is in jail and has been sentenced to death only adds to the irony of his musings. He looks back on the events with "awe," yet thinks that others, sometime in the future, will understand and sympathize with him, finding what he did not odd at all. In the end we know he will die because in the beginning he has still, only hours before his death, come to terms and accepted responsibility for the consequences of his actions. In the very first paragraph of the story he points the finger of blame at "these events" whi...

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... allowing the hidden character of the Narrator, and the truth of the situation to be revealed. The black cat may have been the agent that was instrumental in his downfall, but it is the man himself who is wholly responsible and Poe leaves little doubt of that. The black cat, hideous, hidden behind the wall, cemented in by the Narrator himself, is a striking symbol of the decay and corruption of the man's soul. His guilt, self-hatred, and need for punishment are all exposed when he bangs on the wall, prompting the black cat to howl, and revealing to the stunned policemen the secret hidden behind the wall.

Notes
1. Poe, Edgar Allan. The Black Cat. Boston: Northeastern University Press. 1986. Pg.l.

2. Poe. Pg. 2.

3. Poe. Pg. 5.

4. Thompson, G.R. Poe's Fiction. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Pg.9.

5. Thompson, Pg. 9.

6. Thompson, Pg 9.

7. Poe. Pg 2.

8. Buranelli, Vincent. Edgar Allan Poe. Boston: Twayne Publishing Company. 1977. Pg.79.

9. Poe. Pg.2.

10. Hoffman, Daniel. "The Marriage Group." Edgar Allan Poe. Modern Critical Views. Harold Bloom, Editor. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. 1985. Pg. 83.

11. Poe. Pg. 8

12. Thompson. Pg.72

13. Poe. Pg. 18.
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