Suspense is a common technique for authors to use in order to make their narratives compelling and exciting, even right up to the very end. There are four common elements of suspense: setting, foreshadowing, pacing, and mystery or danger.
Have students create a storyboard that highlights each of these elements and explains how they are used to enhance the suspense in “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe.
The setting of the story begins with the narrator, the day before he has been condemned to die. His home before the fire is nondescript, but it has a pretty garden. The narrator routinely hangs out in “haunts” or taverns, adding to the feeling of creepiness and violence he routinely brings home to his wife and pets. His home after the fire has a dark, dank cellar, perfect for concealing a body.
The strongest example of foreshadowing comes in the form of the black and white cat, who not only is missing an eye like Pluto, reminding the narrator of his violent act, but the white mark on his chest changes shape to look like a gallows. This foreshadows the judgment that will ultimately find the narrator.
The narrator is almost reluctant at first to tell his tale, because he doesn’t think that anyone will believe him. He then begins in his childhood, where he knew he was different than other children, and then he moves into the early years of his marriage. His pacing is slow and deliberate, ultimately leading to the reveal of how he wound up murdering his wife and being sentenced to death.
The mystery of the apparition burned into the narrator’s wall of Pluto with the rope around his neck leads the reader to believe that the narrator has not seen the end of Pluto. In addition, the narrator’s violence in his drunkenness creates an atmosphere of volatility and unpredictability, which ultimately leads to his wife’s murder.
Grade Level 9-10
Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)
Type of Assignment Individual or PartnerCommon Core Standards
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Create a storyboard illustrating different elements of suspense used in "The Black Cat".
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