Edgar Allan Poe 'Tell Tale Heart' and 'the fall of the house of Usher

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In the first paragraph we are introduced to the main character who is also the narrator. Immediately he comes across as being mad and crazed. He claims that a disease has ‘sharpened his senses’ and made him healthy. This is obviously quite strange because a disease doesn’t strengthen you it weakens you.  He seems to be talking to himself at the beginning, which is an obvious symptom of madness. Poe uses short sentences to convey the nervous agitation shown by the murderer. ‘Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing’, these three short sentences suggest that the murderer is panicking and is anxious, although he tries to hide it

We then meet the old man who has the ‘eye of a vulture’. The murderer fears the eye and makes it his duty to destroy it. When he sees it, it makes his ‘blood run cold’, this implies to the reader that he is insane as he is afraid of an eye. The eye is named the ‘Evil Eye’, which gives the eye a status and emphasises its vileness and vulgar appearance.

Poe uses different techniques to create a chilling atmosphere. When the murderer goes to the old man’s bedroom every night, the atmosphere is supernatural and the pace slows down to match the actions of the murderer, ‘cautiously – oh, so cautiously – cautiously’, this delays the pace of the language, creating suspense, so that the reader is almost hypnotized, especially with the use of repetition which adds to the feeling of apprehension. On top of that, in order for Poe to create a menacing atmosphere, he uses personification of death. He describes death as an ‘unperceived shadow’ like the murderer is to the old man, unnoticed and murky. Poe also uses long sentences to bring the pace of the story right down. Within these sentences Poe uses pauses, alliteration, sibilance and tautology to slow the tempo. Also Poe uses dramatic sentences to slow the pace but to also convey the abnormal state of mind of the murderer, ‘For a whole hour I did not move a muscle’, this again emphasises the point that the murderer is eccentric, but it also decelerates the pace of the story as it creates an image in the reader’s mind of a very unhurried and non-moving man.

However the pace of the language varies considerably to convey the volatility of the murderer’s thoughts. The pace of the story reflects the murderer’s ever-changing disturbed mind. It seems to the reader that when he is confident, the pace of the story seems to be slow and relaxed, but when he is anxious the pace quickens and he goes almost hysterical and maniacal. To convey this Poe uses exclamation marks and short sentences, particularly towards the end when the murderer hears the heart beat of the old man whom he thought was dead. ‘Louder! Louder! Louder! Louder! Louder!’ accelerates the pace and the short pauses mirror the thumps of the old man’s heart creating an unearthly atmosphere.

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The murderer conveys himself as ‘courageous’ and ‘confident’ as he pursues the old man. ‘I fairly chuckled at the idea’, he is so convinced that the old man has no idea that he is there, that he thinks it’s funny, suggesting that he sees things in a twisted way. He thinks he is omniscient, ‘I felt the extent of my own powers’, this suggests to the reader that the murderer believes that he can do nothing wrong and is almost invincible.


Leading up to the old man’s death Poe uses different techniques to get the reader thinking like the ...

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