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Ostseegymnasium Rostock

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2012, 100%

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Literature Essay How does Edgar Allan Poe create an atmosphere of horror and build tension in The Tell Tale Heart? Edgar Allen Poes wrote this story based on the gothic genre which some would say he brought to the world this new style of writing. This is a story of a mad man who lives with an old man with a vulture eye. But this eye gets under the mad mans skin and he wants to At the beginning of the story the unnamed narrator starts to tell his tragic story, persuading people that he isnt a mad man. This is just a build up to the tension because there must…

Analysis of a short story – E. A. Poe - “THE TELL-TALE HEART”

Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Tell-Tale Heart was published in 1843. In the story an unnamed character decides to kill an old man because of the old man’s “vulture eye”. Over seven nights the murderer creeps into the old man’s room finding the “vulture eye” not opened in the eighth night, he finally slays him and dismembers and hides the corpse.

The protagonist leads the arriving police officers in the room of the murder and feels safe. However he imagines hearing the loud battering of the dead man’s heart (his conscience) under the planks, which in the end makes him reveal his deed. The story is written as a report of the murderer who tries to prove that he is not a madman.

As a classic gothic tale the skilful creation of suspense and tension by Poe plays a very essential role in the analysis of The Tell-Tale Heart.

First of all there is a very dramatic changing of the pacing: the story is full of parts where there is a slow rhythm with a lot of repetitive adverbs “I moved it slowly – very, very slowly”, (page 60), Poe does that until the point of absurdity: “I undid the lantern cautiously – oh so cautiously! – cautiously” where one actually thinks that the protagonist is a madman.

Nevertheless a lot of suspense is created and the reader is able to imagine precisely the situation in the dark house, when the time is stretched, and is more and more curious for the upcoming events.
On the other hand in the last part of the story the rhythm and the pacing are rapid: “It grew louder, louder,
louder! {…} Almighty God! – no, no! They heard!” (page 65), with the usage of plenty of repetitions; onomatopoeia, emphasis (“Hark! louder, louder, louder!”); exclamation marks; exaggerations (“I waited for an hour”) and exclamations (“Ha!”), the excitement, suspense and tension in the story are increasing to the summit until the protagonist and the reader cannot stand it any longer.

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In addition to that the usage direct speech (“I admit the deed!”) and a reporting first person narrator who asks rhetorical questions (“but why will you say that I am mad?”, “do you mark me well?”) also backs the involvement, tension and emphasizing in the reader’s mind.
Moreover Poe uses metaphors like “death watches” (“harkening death watches in the wall”), which are standing for the beating of the hideous heart and the passage of time, alliterations (“He shrieked once – once only”), irony (“I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him.”) and hyperboles (“ ‘it is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.’”) to convince the reader of the persuasion of the story and to retain a strong effect on the reader’s suspense/curiosity.

Taking everything in consideration, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart is like many of works (e.g. The Raven) a skilful masterpiece in the creation of tension and suspense. Accordingly the usage of various techniques and stylistic devices maintains the feeling of excitement.



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