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How effectively do Poe and Bradbury use narrative voice, narrative structure and language to create an atmosphere of suspense and horror in The Tell Tale Heart and The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl?

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Introduction

How effectively do Poe and Bradbury use narrative voice, narrative structure and language to create an atmosphere of suspense and horror in The Tell Tale Heart and The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl? Introduction Both of these short stories deal with murder, each centring on a killer: Poe's neurotic young man is driven to kill his elderly housemate by a fixation with the other's eye, while Bradbury's obsessive, hallucinatory William Acton murders the man with whom his wife has been having an affair. Both writers use narrative voice, structure and language to create in their stories an atmosphere of suspense. I will look at the different methods used by the two writers, and compare their effectiveness. Narrative Voice Poe uses first person narration, placing himself in the mind of his young killer as he meticulously plans, carries out and attempts to cover up his crime. Meanwhile, Bradbury uses third person narration, using the narrator's omniscience to move in time and space more freely than he could were he bound within the confines of a particular character's voice. In The Tell Tale Heart, the use of first person narration is effective in several ways. It allows us to see inside the mind of the very disturbed young man at the story's centre, showing us the true nature of a madman. ...read more.

Middle

house to remove all evidence of his having been there: 'He polished the floor one yard from the body on all sides. Then he polished the floor two yards from the body on all sides. Then he polished the floor three yards from the body in all directions.' This cold, objective, matter-of-fact style shows how Bradbury uses third person narration to accentuate the horror and coldness of Acton's actions. It also serves to emphasise the sheer lunacy and illogicality of Acton's obsession with cleanliness, as this blunt statement of the action highlights Acton's irrational and slightly ridiculous fixation. In conclusion to this section, I would say that both writers face advantages and challenges to the effectiveness of their use of narrative voice: Poe is limited as his character is not omniscient, though he is able to take us inside the mind of the young murderer, while Bradbury, although his omniscience allows him to accentuate the erratic mania of Acton, is restricted by the fact that he cannot show the true nature of Acton's psychosis and his attitude to his actions and thoughts. Thus, Poe and Bradbury have made different choices with respects to narrative voice, and these choices have varying effectiveness. Narrative Structure The two writers employ differing narrative structures to create an atmosphere of suspense and horror. ...read more.

Conclusion

Bradbury uses narrative structure here to emphasise Acton's growing mania. The crisis in actual time is the period in which Acton finds gloves in a drawer in the house and begins to see fingerprints on various objects and surfaces, and clean frantically, hiding when the doorbell rings and beginning to hallucinate and becomes increasingly schizophrenic, arguing with himself over the actuality of the presence of fingerprints. Bradbury builds tension using an extended crisis in order to show the way Acton's insanity grows throughout the story as he becomes increasingly paranoid. There is a climax in both the flashback and in the actual time story. The flashback reaches climax when Huxley is killed. Even here, at this dramatic and violent climax, Bradbury has Acton paranoid and completely fixated on the idea that Huxley is trying to incriminate Acton for his murder - Acton insists that Huxley fell to the floor deliberately in order to get Acton to crawl on the floor and fingerprint it. The crisis in actual time climaxes in the reference by Acton's tormenting alter ego to Lady Macbeth's line in Macbeth: 'Out damned spot'. This reference to guilt and the irreversibility of actions will be discussed further in the language section, but here, suffice to say that Bradbury employs a dramatic and slightly ironic climax to Acton's growing guilt - which is manifesting itself in the form of paranoia - in order to bring a memorable end to the drawn-out period in which Acton has been becoming more and more frenzied. ...read more.

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