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Diction in The Black Cat

Diction Examples in The Black Cat:

The Black Cat

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"Many projects entered my mind...."   (The Black Cat)

Poe uses the noun “project” in an unusually layered way in this passage. A “project” is an undertaking or endeavour, referring in this case to the narrator’s effort to hide his wife’s corpse. A “project” is also the mental anticipation of an undertaking, the scheme of it, and here readers see a litany of schemes stream through the narrator’s mind. Finally, and most archaically, a “project” is a mere idea or object of the imagination; Shakespeare often used the word in this sense. As revealed by the shades of possible meaning in “project,” the blurred line between thought and deed is thematically important to the story: the narrator is often unsure of what is real and what is merely imagined.

"Whenever I sat, it would crouch beneath my chair, or spring upon my knees, covering me with its loathsome caresses...."   (The Black Cat)

The diction Poe employs to describe the cat gives the animal a curiously mechanical quality. To this end, the most significant word is the pronoun “it,” which immediately separates the new cat from Pluto, whom the narrator had referred to as “he” and “him.” The verb “spring,” evoking the movements of coiled metal, bolsters the cat’s lifelessness. Indeed, the narrator suspects the cat has returned from the dead, and Poe’s diction gives readers a subtle window into these suspicions.

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