Activity Overview

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.

Suspense in the “The Black Cat”


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.

Mystery or Danger

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.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard illustrating different elements of suspense used in "The Black Cat".

  1. Use the template provided by your teacher.
  2. In each cell, identify an element of suspense used in the story.
  3. Describe how each element is used.
  4. Illustrate each example with appropriate characters, scenes, and items.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/1] Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/9-10/4] Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/9-10/5] Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest

This Activity is Part of Many Teacher Guides

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