Read the following passage from "The Black Cat": The officers bade me accompany them in their search. They left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, for the third or fourth time, they descended...

Read the following passage from "The Black Cat":

The officers bade me accompany them in their search. They left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, for the third or fourth time, they descended into the cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that of one who slumbers in innocence. I walked the cellar from end to end. I folded my arms upon my bosom, and roamed easily to and fro. The police were thoroughly satisfied and prepared to depart.

In this passage, how does Poe create the effect of time passing quickly?

  A. By encouraging the reader to form a connection with the narrator   B. By expressing complex ideas that force the reader to read slowly   C. By using short sentences that speed up the pace of the story   D. By withholding vital information and thus confusing the reader

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Poe creates the effect of time passing quickly by

(C.) By using short sentences that speed up the pace of the story.

A great deal happens in this paragraph, but much of what happens is covered in single brief sentences. For example:

I walked the cellar from end to end.

These eight words suggest that the narrator walked back and forth several times. He would not have been standing at one end of the cellar to begin with but would have walked to one end, then turned and walked to the other end, and, since there was nothing to keep him at that end of the cellar, he would have had to turn and walk back at least as far as where he had originally been standing. Does this walking back and forth seem suspicious? To the reader? To the officers?

Another short sentence that says a lot is:

I quivered not in a muscle.

It must have been an awkward predicament for the narrator, since he had nothing whatever to do and he was conscious of being covertly watched by the officers. The narrator has to appear to be acting normally--but what is normal when a man is in an abnormal situation? The narrator of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" finds himself in a very similar situation when the police officers appear; but he loses his cool entirely and gives himself away.

Macbeth is in a very similar position in Shakespeare's play when he goes down to answer the knocking at the gate and finds it is Macduff and Lennox who have come to wake the king. Macbeth had intended to pretend to be sound asleep when someone discovered the body and raised an outcry. Instead (in Act 2, Scene 3) he is forced to lead the two callers to Duncan's chamber and pretend to be totally innocent and ignorant of the horrible fact that King Duncan is dead in his bed and covered with his own blood.

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