Analyzing The Theme Of Death In Three Stories

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Analyzing the Theme of Death in Three Stories

This paper presents a critical analysis of the theme of death in three stories, namely - “The Black Cat” and “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe. The third story is titled as “Guests of the Nation”, authored by Frank O'Connor.

The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe

The story has many themes, most of them relating to human psychology and several in the form of contraries: reason versus the irrational; human being versus animal; self-knowledge versus self-deception; sanity versus madness; love versus hate; good versus evil; the power of obsession and guilt; and the sources or motives of crime. As in many of his works, Poe is interested in the borderline between opposites and how it may be crossed.

Sheer emphasis or proportion in the story—the great number of words he spends on the cats contrasted with the brevity of his remarks about the maltreatment and murder of his wife—indicates the deficiency in both the narrator's insight and his feelings (Yanni, 525). He cannot see that guilt causes him to forestall mentioning his greatest misdeed until the story's end, while his feeling for his wife was too weak to prevent his murdering her. The narrator cannot see that his killing her is not a mere deflection from his murderous purpose, but its true aim, whose motives are laid down in the sixth, sixteenth, eighteenth, and twenty-second paragraphs of the story.

Finally, the cat's howl in response to the narrator's rapping of the wall is described in symbolic terms: It begins as a muffled cry, “like the sobbing of a child,” but quickly swells into a “continuous scream . . . 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 ...
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