Compare and contrast The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat

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Zoë Molyneux

Compare and contrast “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat”

Edgar Allan Poe was an American poet and writer who is regarded as a master of the macabre, focusing on the horror genre with themes of death and insanity being explored throughout his work. Many traits of his main characters, such as the alcohol abuse of the protagonist in The Black Cat are borrowed from his own experiences, with the demons of drugs and alcohol eventually driving Poe to his death. His stories in general share the social setting of his own life, which was east-coast America in the mid-1800s, when at the time the distinct stoicism of the Victorian era was prevalent and insanity was a taboo subject – people who displayed an unstable state of mind were locked away and treated as outcasts. The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat have many similarities, including these two men who throughtout their stories attempt to rationalise their respective downfalls , but instead show how terribly insane they are, letting the reader make their own observation of their mental disintegration.

The murders in both stories have several similarities as well as differences. Firstly, both men dissect the murders and explain rationally the precision with which they went about killing their victims in an attempt to seem as sane as possible. In The Tell-Tale Heart, this is the narrator says, “You should have seen how wisely I preceded – with what caution – with what foresight – with what dissimulation I went to work!” while in The Black Cat he says “I set myself forthwith, and with entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body”. Their sense of detachment actually lets the reader see how mentally damaged these individuals are.

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Another similarity is that when questioned by the police about the murders, the over-confidence of both men leads to their downfall. In The Tell-Tale Heart, we see the narrator describe his change from perfectly comfortable to extremely nervous as the supposedly “beating heart” haunts him. He says “Yet the sound increased – a low, dull, muffled sound - much such a sound a watch makes when enveloped in cotton” which references how he described the mans heartbeat as he killed him. Perhaps this was his own heartbeat, because the old man was obviously lifeless, and we were told at ...

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