Cask Of Amontillado And Black Cat Shrout 1 Aspects and Analysis of Edgar Allen Poe’s ” The Cask of Amontillado” and the “Black Cat” What makes literary works considered great, and furthermore what makes the greatness of the work withstand the test of time? The answer to both of these questions is the same. Greatness of literary work that withstands the test of time is due to the fact that their meaning is still seen and identified with by people today, and still evokes interest in the reader, even though these works were written decades, sometimes centuries earlier. When works of literature have with stood the test of time, and are still considered great, these works are analyzed as to why they are so. One author’s work that has come under much critical analysis to what aspects of his work make them so great is Edgar Allen Poe. Two works in particular that have come under analysis are “The Cask of Amontillado”, and the “Black Cat”. Under analysis, it has been determined that there are three aspects of Poe’s writing that make his stories literary classics.
These three aspects of his writing are style, theme and use of irony. What are these three aspects, and how are they used in Poe’s work? Style Edgar Allen Poe’s literary style has been analyzed in many different ways. It is believed that it is the style and the view that the reader is given that make his short stories so compelling. His style is made up of two closely connected parts that influence the structure of his stories greatly. The first part of his style is the perception that Poe gives the reader.
The perception that the reader gets can only be achieved by the Shrout 2 second part of his style which is the use of the first person narrative that both “The Cask of Amontillado”, and the “The Black Cat” posses. These two connected parts, the perception and first person narrative, give the stories a sense of realism. Although by pure critical analysis of the story, a reader may determine that the central characters of the stories “The Cask of Amontillado, and “The Black Cat” are insane, not only for there actions, but there thinking as well. As readers, we should not look at Poe’s stories objectively. “There is no possible way to obtain from any of Poe’s gothic tales an objective viewpoint because every word is relayed to the reader directly though the narrator”(Saliba 70).
We believe in all the narrative that the central character gives, not only on what he sees and does, but also about what he is thinking. “..the dramatic action of all the stories is directly created by the narrative voice”(Saliba 70). This is precisely Poe’s intention. As readers, if we believe that the characters are insane, and there perception of the world is clouded, we would not believe that what the characters see and feel is not really happening, then we miss Poe’s intentions entirely: What is important is that the reader give credence to the idea that the narrator believes in his own perception; that what he perceives is surely more true to him than whatever objective reality the reader might think he sees, or as Poe’s intended underlying reality of the situation. It is far more important that the reader trust Shrout 3 the narrator as far as the narrator’s perception is concerned than that he skip him mentally to reassure himself of Poe’s sane artistic control the whole time the reader is pursing the story; otherwise he will be missing the opportunity of enjoying the artistic experience Poe has intentionally provided (Saliba 68) As for the style of the first person narrative, it gives the story a totally different perception and feeling, not found in most short stories.
With most short stories, the plot is told from the outside looking in, in the third person form. As readers, besides the occasional description, we never get to really determine the true feeling of the central character. However with Poe’s first person narrative, as readers look from the inside of the main characters head to the real world as Poe’s character sees it. “The intended function of Poe’s narrator is to captivate the reader’s conscious mind and mesmerize his senses to the extent that he cannot help identifying with the narrator to some degree”(Saliba 70). With this style of character portrayal, we as readers know at all times what the central character is thinking and feeling, and how it influences their actions.
In order for a reader to fully appreciate Poe’s art, the reader must willingly fully participate in the story (Saliba 70). Theme Theme is the second part of Edgar Allen Poe’s writing that makes his stories so intriguing. The theme of all his works has been described has grotesque and arabesque. Shrout 4 “The grotesque suggests more strongly a yoking of the chaotic, fearful and the comic; the arabesque suggests more strongly a sense of ironic perspectives in the midst of confusion and ominoisness. Both suggest the struggle to understand the incomprehensible, neither term meaning anything absolutely exclusive of the other, both focused on the tension between conscious control and subconscious fear and delusion”(Thompson 109). The types of themes that are present in the “The Cask of Amontillado”, and “The Black Cat”, are premature burial, which is only seen in “The Cask of Amontillado”, although wall in the main character’s victims is seen in both stories.
The premature burial was brought about as a result of an act of revenge, however the motivation of the main character in “The Black Cat” is different. He is driven to madness by the cat, which in the end becomes his own downfall, but both characters are seeking to commit the perfect crime. “What the narrator describes is what he would call a “flawless plot”, that is, a plot to commit a crime and get away with it. But it is precisely the plot or the pattern that gives it away”(May 78). Theses themes greatly influence the characters involved in the plot as they pertain the story line.
The use of premature burial as a way to enact Montresor revenge on Fortunado in “The Cask of Amontillado” has many uses. “The reason that premature burial is so appealing to Poe is that it embodies the idea of an awareness or a perception of one’s lack of control. Such an awareness engenders fear”(Saliba 79). The time period in which the “The Cask of Amontillado takes place, premature burial was a common way of fulfilling revenge. The reason for this is simple.
The idea of premature burial as a means for Shrout 5 revenge either by walled in or being buried alive victims still leaves room flaw. This flaw is known and intended by the person acting out the revenge. Divine intervention is the flaw that exists in the almost perfect scheme. This divine intervention comes as an outlet for which the person seeking revenge could escape to. For example, if a person is buried alive or walled in as a result of revenge, then if the revenge were injustice, then God would step in as divined intervention and save the person from death. If the revenge were justified, then the person’s death as a result of being buried alive or walled in would only be right, and just. Also the use of premature burial, and or walling in someone, as a use of revenge is near flawless, except for divine intervention. When burying someone alive, or walling someone in, all evidence is concealed, and natural death is the actual cause of death.
This method of revenge destroys motive for killing rendering it impossible for a person to be convicted of his or her crimes. The theme and motive are direct influences on one another in “The Black Cat”. On the surface, the motive appears to be his common household black cat, his hatred for this animal drove to madness and the final ironic conclusion, but the black cat posses much more meaning then that. “The Black Cat”(1843) carries the same themes further and details more clearly the irrational desire, almost ultimate irony, to act against oneself, with an ambiguous conclusion suggesting the agency of malevolent fortune at the same time that it suggests subconscious self-punishment”(Thompson 172). We as readers can also see, his obsessive tendencies in the story, for example he abuses and kills his first cat, and yet he gets another one just like it, even with only one eye.
“The “cause” of the Shrout 6 image of the cat is the obsessive nature of the narrator that has been translated into the obsessive unity of the story – a unity that demands the plaster image of the cat, just has it demands the reappearance of another cat that reflects the first – a cat that, like the original one, has lost one eye and has the image of the gallows around its neck”(May 75). The narrator has no sense of guilt for his actions, yet he is happy, filled with glee, that his wife’s body rots behind the wall that he built (May 75). His guiltlessness and obsessive nature towards the cat is seen in full effect at the climatic end of the story. “It did not make its appearance during the night; and thus for one night at least since its introduction into the house, I soundly and tranquilly slept – ay, slept even with the burden of murder upon my soul”(Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination 346)! “To embody both agony and exultation at once is the essence of the paradox that makes up his obsession – his motiveless motive…”(May …