Down Deep in the Dark: A Semiotic Approach to Edgar Allan Poe’s the Black Cat

Abdul Karim Lazim


Semiotics is the investigation of the nature, type and function of signs in all walks of life. It is the science of interpreting signs and showing how meaning is generated by and through a shared cultural code.  Being a verbal corpus of imaginatively works of art, literature with all its genres, i.e. poetry, drama, fiction, the short story, etc. lends itself to semiotics scrutiny. Verbal works of artifact as such can be analyzed in terms of semiotic theory. This paper purports to explore Edgar Allan Poe’ The Black Cat as a structure of interconnected signs which are organically rooted into the code of horror. If culture, in one sense, is the complex network of beliefs, behaviors and patterns of thinking, these psychopathic cognitive patterns are wittingly structured in the semiotic system of Poe’s narrative work of art. The study proceeds with the hypothesis that Poe’s The Black Cat is a semiotic metaphor or a representation of the actual world of insanity which is resulted from obsession in things. The short story is analyzed in terms of the newly semiotic approach, namely The Semiotic triangle. This tripartite model is a three-dimensional model whose axes are: syntagmaticity, paradigmaticity and signification. The dimensions are supposed to be the foundations of the construction of Poe’s literary text. One result of the study has shown that fear is not an organic human nature in The Black Cat, but a newly born behavior which has led to a serial of crimes committed by the unnamed author. This abnormal behaviorism is encoded in the semiotic veins of Poe’s newly literary genre, i.e. the narratology of horror. The scope of the study is limited to Poe’s The Black Cat as a par excellent narrative work of that creative genre. The paper is rounded up with concluding remarks elicited from the semiotic analysis.  


the semiotic triangle, syntagmaticity, paradigmaticity, signification, the Gothic novel, culture of horror, narratology

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