The Black Cat Question #5 - What's the Point?

by Edgar Allen Poe

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The Black Cat Question #5 - What's the Point?

Unread postby Liz » Fri Oct 28, 2005 9:46 am

What is the theme of the story?
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The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby Endora » Fri Oct 28, 2005 10:51 am

I think it's about how you can't keep your sins hidden inside you, that a secret like that of the Black Cat story corrodes from within, and eventually will out. It's a bit like the Macbeth principle, of guilt not being able to be washed away or ignored. Poe is very keen on this inner evil idea, in my opinion. That's why he appeals after all this time, because as a species we still fear what we may do to others more than what others may do to us. It's the loss of humanity that goes with losing control that we fear. Some would think of this as the definition of madness.
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Unread postby fansmom » Fri Oct 28, 2005 2:12 pm

Endora wrote:I think it's about how you can't keep your sins hidden inside you, that a secret like that of the Black Cat story corrodes from within, and eventually will out. It's a bit like the Macbeth principle, of guilt not being able to be washed away or ignored. Poe is very keen on this inner evil idea, in my opinion. That's why he appeals after all this time, because as a species we still fear what we may do to others more than what others may do to us. It's the loss of humanity that goes with losing control that we fear. Some would think of this as the definition of madness.
All good, Endora!

I once heard a definition of "gothic" (as in romance or novel) as a clash of good and evil: either an innocent person in an evil place, or an evil person in an innocent place. I wonder if whoever came up with that definition was thinking of Poe at the time.

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Unread postby Liz » Fri Oct 28, 2005 2:26 pm

That's an interesting definition of gothic. I like it. It made me look up the definition (in relation to literature):

Literature belonging to a genre of fiction characterized by gloom and darkness, often with a grotesque or supernatural plot unfolding in an eerie or lonely location such as a ruined castle
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby Betty Sue » Fri Oct 28, 2005 2:27 pm

Yes, it seems that this 'gentleman' (well, he started out gentle) couldn't run away from the sin he committed while under the influence of alcohol. I think guilt was driving him mad, as well. The theme seems to be that once we sin, it's downhill from there. So I would take the moral to be that we're better off 'fessing up, making amends, and staying on the straight and narrow! :angel:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Oct 28, 2005 2:45 pm

Doesn't it seem that Poe uses guilt often as a motivator in his stories?
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Fri Oct 28, 2005 3:53 pm

Yes, and I think that helps to draw us in. We might not all be able to imagine ourselves sinking to the depths of his characters, but, unfortunately, we all most likely can find something to make us feel guilty! :-/
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Oct 28, 2005 5:12 pm

I think that the point he is trying to make is that you'd better be careful what you do, because it might come back to bite you. And I agree that he emphasizes guilt, and that if one commits an atrocity the guilt will be so strong that it will reveal itself somehow so that the offender can be punished.
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The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby QueenofKings » Fri Oct 28, 2005 9:21 pm

Liz wrote:I think that the point he is trying to make is that you'd better be careful what you do, because it might come back to bite you. And I agree that he emphasizes guilt, and that if one commits an atrocity the guilt will be so strong that it will reveal itself somehow so that the offender can be punished.


I think that guilt is so huge a theme in Poe's short works, it is almost a singular character lurking beneath everything. In "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Cask of Amantillado," as well.
I have to add here that I wish I'd had more time this month to examine his poems and short stories in depth again. It's been a very long time since I've read them.

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Unread postby dharma_bum » Sat Oct 29, 2005 1:46 am

Endora wrote:I think it's about how you can't keep your sins hidden inside you, that a secret like that of the Black Cat story corrodes from within, and eventually will out. It's a bit like the Macbeth principle, of guilt not being able to be washed away or ignored. Poe is very keen on this inner evil idea, in my opinion. That's why he appeals after all this time, because as a species we still fear what we may do to others more than what others may do to us. It's the loss of humanity that goes with losing control that we fear. Some would think of this as the definition of madness.


Endora, I so agree… Madness is really the fear of losing control, but maybe the greater fear is not being able to recognize it when it happens. Self-awareness is supposedly what separates us from beasts.

I think that Poe was also trying say that there is no such thing as a little evil.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Oct 29, 2005 9:19 pm

dharma_bum wrote:
Endora wrote:I think it's about how you can't keep your sins hidden inside you, that a secret like that of the Black Cat story corrodes from within, and eventually will out. It's a bit like the Macbeth principle, of guilt not being able to be washed away or ignored. Poe is very keen on this inner evil idea, in my opinion. That's why he appeals after all this time, because as a species we still fear what we may do to others more than what others may do to us. It's the loss of humanity that goes with losing control that we fear. Some would think of this as the definition of madness.


Endora, I so agree… Madness is really the fear of losing control, but maybe the greater fear is not being able to recognize it when it happens. Self-awareness is supposedly what separates us from beasts.

I think that Poe was also trying say that there is no such thing as a little evil.


I think you have a good point here db. Poe's characters in these stories don't seem to realize they are losing control even though the reader is quite aware of it - hence our fear. Very Mortish to answer another question about parallels.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby gilly » Sun Oct 30, 2005 9:39 pm

It's about cause and consequence and totally egocentric behaviour..The 'hero' doesn't understand that all actions have consequences ...
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