Comparison between The Tell-tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and Misery by Stephen King.

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The Tell-Tale Heart and Misery

The Tell-Tale Heart was written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1843. Famous for his scary novels Poe’s most famous work was the short story, The Tell-Tale Heart which depicts an anonymous narrator as he carries out his plan to murder a helpless old man. Misery was written by Stephen King in 1987 and it follows a similar theme of horror/thriller with similar characters in similar positions. King tells the story of a renowned author as he gets captured and tortured by a woman.Both of these stories use different techniques through their plot, language and punctuation but they have much the same effect on the reader.

In both stories, one of the underlying techniques for building up suspense is hidden inside a well thought out and structured plot. In Misery, the narrative switches back and forth between Paul the author, and his kidnapper, who is known only as Annie. This creates the main source of suspense in the story building it up by showing where each character is, what they’re doing and how close they’re getting to each other. What adds to this suspense is the effect of hearing Paul's thoughts directly. Even though the extract is written in third person, a fraction of the text is written in italics and it represents Paul's thoughts. The writer does this for several reasons. To show things from Paul's point of view and what he is thinking at the time in more detail , but also to underline how worried and panicked he is as things start to go wrong. By hearing Paul's thoughts directly the reader gets to understand how fearful Paul is of getting caught.

Also concealed between the lines of the plot is the way the writer stresses the high stakes of what Paul was doing and what will happen to him if he’s caught. Right at the beginning of the extract, Paul compares what is happening to him, to his past childhood experience. Through this comparison, the writer introduces the possible idea of Paul getting caught and what will happen to him if he is. The flashback takes the reader back to when Paul had been twelve and decided to try some of his mother’s cigarettes. As the room filled with smoke, his mum returned in search for her forgotten purse. We are not told about what his mother did to him when she caught him, but you can guess from the words “It will be more than a spanking this time” that it was going to be bad. This tells us that if he is caught by Annie in present day he would have to face terrible consequences.  Paul compares these to situations because in both he’s attempting something and trying not to get caught. In the flashback he does get caught, giving a sense of foreboding to the rest of the story, making the reader think he might get caught again. The high stakes are also shown throughout the extract in Paul’s actions and thoughts. His desperation in his attempts to get back into the room and lock the door and his attention to detail  show how scared he is of getting caught, because of what he thinks will happen to him if he is. “Oh Jesus Christ, did you chip the paint, did you leave a track”. His thoughts also scream fear and anxiety in the way punctuation like question marks, exclamation marks and pauses are used. ”did she hear that? She must have must have heard that!”

These things are used very effectively as Paul stumbles upon problem upon problem as he attempts to return to the living room after failing to escape from his prison. He must leave everything the way it was to avoid suspicion from Annie, his kidnapper. However his luck doesn’t seem to be doing him any favours whilst Annie pulls up the driveway. His first problem was getting into the living room; the wheelchair was a very tight fit. On his first go he crashed into the side, “The wheelchair thumped against the right side of the doorway and bounced back a little”. His reaction to this was one of great terror and panic, “Did you chip the pain? His mind screamed at him”. On his second try he got jammed in the doorway and wouldn’t budge. The amount of effort he put in getting through shows the reader how scared he was of the cost of getting caught. “The muscles in his arms quivering like overturned violin strings”. The other problem that he encounters is made clear to the reader, as Paul tries to close the door of living room. The door must be closed and locked in order to leave everything the way it was before Annie left it and avoid suspicion. However whilst pushing the lock back with his thumb he meets an obstruction. Through panicked deduction he realizes the bobby pin he had originally used to unlock the door was stuck in the keyhole, stopping the lock from going back inside. These events contribute greatly to the suspense of the extract by giving Paul more chance of getting caught and keeping the story thrilling and fast-paced. In terms of pace I think that in Misery, as Paul encounters several problems on his return to the room, the story is more fast-paced and exciting than The Tell-Tale Heart. In comparison with Misery, The Tell-Tale Heart is extremely slow and unhurried because as it is first person the narrator is describing everything in full detail and all his thoughts at the time. Plus most of the murder involved waiting.

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 At the end of the extract Paul overcomes all his problems but as he sat in his wheelchair awaiting the untimely arrival of Annie, he looks down and realises that the box of Novrils is still in his lap. “The box of Novrils was still in his lap”. This final sentence in its simplistic form puts an end to Paul’s series of unfortunate events in a great climax of suspense. The sentence is short and straightforward, leaving the reader to work out what will happen for themselves. There was no way Paul could do anything with the box without being ...

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