In the introductory paragraph of Poe’s “The Black Cat,”Preview the document the narrator of our story tells us that his own appeals to logic have led him to draw some pretty ghastly and nightmarish conclusions about what led him to his fate. As he sits in his jail cell awaiting his own execution at dawn the next morning, our narrator shares his story with us and walks us through his reasoning about his cat.
There are two extended logical proofs for us to extract and discuss in this journal, both of them inductive. The first one is an Appeal to Signs concerning his first pet cat, Pluto. The conclusion that he draws (though he will almost immediately dismiss it) is as follows:
Therefore my pet cat, Pluto, has probably risen from the grave to seek revenge against me by burning down my house.
Read over the first part of the story — the part leading up to the destruction of our narrator’s home — and find all the premises that support this strange conclusion
Almost immediately after drawing this conclusion about his cat, our narrator dismisses it because it is so strange that he fears he must be insane if he seriously entertains it. Instead, he supposes that much of the evidence can be more rationally explained by another conclusion involving a good Samaritan and the corpse of his first pet cat. But some more strange things happen and cause our narrator once again to entertain his first conclusion about Pluto’s post mortem revenge schemes.
I want you to extract and discuss the premises that lead to a second, but related conclusion, which can be stated as follows:
Therefore this second pet cat is probably a reincarnation of Pluto, who has risen from the grave again and is still seeking his revenge.
Whereas the narrator’s first appeal to logic takes the form of an Appeal to Signs (ie, the conclusion is supported by signs that point in its direction, the narrator’s second appeal to logic takes the form of an Appeal to Paradigm (ie, the conclusion is based on a number of similarities between two subjects — in this case, the two pet cats).
In his introductory paragraph for this story, our narrator more or less challenges us to find a more rational explanation for his fate than the explanation his own conclusions have led him to. No doubt this is entirely possible. But the interesting thing about this story is that his own conclusions about supernatural vengeance seem so very plausible that it gives us goosebumps. I want you to examine the narrator’s logic explain how his conclusions do indeed seem at least plausible. Let’s keep the ghost alive a bit longer and shiver together as you walk me through the Appeal to Signs and the Appeal to Paradigm at the heart of this story.
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