The Tell-Tale Heart

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The Tell-Tale Heart is a powerful
psychological thriller that gives an account
of a murder from the perspective of its
perpetrator, a deranged madman. The
narrator plots to kill an old man to forever rid
himself of his “Evil Eye”. For seven nights the
narrator stalks the old man, waiting to catch
his enemy-the eye-open.

When the time arrives, on the eighth
night, he meticulously carries out the
heinous murder and disembodiment of
his victim. The madman’s victory is shortlived, however, as his paranoia couples
with guilt. As his emotions intensify, so
does his insanity.

His insanity manifests itself as the sound of
a heartbeat that becomes louder and
louder. At the pinnacle of madness, the
narrator can no longer endure his guilty
conscience, and he confesses his crime.

Poe uses this type of figurative language
to compare two unlike things, typically
marked by use of “like” or “as”:
A low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch
makes when enveloped in cotton…

Poe also uses personification to enhance
his storytelling:
All in vain; because Death, in approaching
him had stalked with his black shadow
before him, and enveloped the victim…

Poe used alliteration to establish mood,
call attention to important words, and
point out similarities and contrasts:
hideous heart

Poe would often repeat words or certain
phrases to achieve a stronger emphasis:
Louder, Louder

Poe used topics and events that are
usually treated seriously- death, mass
murder, sickness, madness, terror, drug
abuse, war, etc., and treated them in a
humorous or satirical manner:
“I was never kinder to the old man than
during the whole week before I killed
him.”

Poe’s writing intended to scare, unsettle,
or horrify the audience. The cause of the
“horror” experience had often been the
intrusion of an evil- or occasionally,
misunderstood supernatural element into
everyday human experience:
“Death, in approaching him, had
stalked…”
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