A Case of Murder

This study guide will help you analyse the poem “A Case of Murder” by Vernon Scannell. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, composition, characters and narrator, language and style, rhythm and rhyme, imagery and metaphors, theme and message.

Presentation of the poem

Title: “A Case of Murder”
Author: Vernon Scannell
Genre: Poetry

Vernon Scannell (1922-2007) was a British author of poems, novels, and autobiographical works. His literary talent as a poet has been recognised through two awards, Heinemann Award for Literature and Cholmondeley Award for poetry.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide:


The most important symbol in the poem is that of the black cat. Although initially, the animal seems to be simply a victim of a young boy’s violence, at a deeper level of analysis, the cat can be a symbol for all wrongdoings or bad deeds that people (children and adults) tend to keep secret and which end up haunting them.

Additionally, there is a lot of symbolism related to the colour black (dark) which we normally tend to associate with negative, bad things and death; and the poem makes no exception to this symbolism.

Also, the cupboard under the stairs becomes a symbol of secrecy and repressed guilt, as it is the place where the dead body of the cat is hidden.

Style an mode of expression

The style of the poem is ordinary. The poet uses simple, everyday language which gives authenticity to the poem, which is meant to present a child’s perspective. The mode of expression is that of an account of a killing act, as a small boy kills the family cat.

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A Case of Murder

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