How does Edgar Allen Poe create an atmosphere of suspense and tension in The Black Cat and The Tell-Tale Heart?

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Pre- 1914 Literature coursework

Edgar Allen Poe

Name: Jasper König


How does Edgar Allen Poe create an atmosphere of suspense and tension in “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”?

Edgar Allen Poe was born on January the 19th, 1809 in Boston, USA. Apart from short stories he was also famous for poems, like “The Raven”. He was one of the first detective and horror storywriters. Two of his stories are “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat”. Both are psychotic murder stories with similar aspects. They are both written in slice of life and first person so we do not know much about the narrator or setting and other characters. All effects come together to create suspense. The reader cannot escape the mystery horror. The reader is involved until the very last word. Poe’s uses of plot, setting, style, and characterisation and structure all help to keep suspense in both stories.

The plots of “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” are fairly similar. In both stories the narrator kills someone close to themselves. Also in both stories they then hide the body in fairly similar places and both of the murderers get found out by being over confidant and giving themselves away. However “The Black Cat” is set over a much longer period of time. This is effective because it gives us the feeling that the narrator is slowly going mad. “I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable”. This tells us that he is changing in a bad way. Also in “The Black Cat” The murder is not as planned as in “The Tell-Tale Heart”. He was not even planning to kill his wife. However in “The Tell-Tale Heart” the narrator plans his murder for over a week. As shown in the line “Upon the eighth night”. This makes the reader think that he may get away with the murder. Another difference to “The Black Cat” is that the story takes place over several months.

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In both stories the setting is mostly in a house. It is also not described in great detail in either story. This is done to create more mystery. This has the effect of the readers not knowing where the story is set and makes us think that it could be happening anywhere and at anytime. Even in your neighbour’s house, which creates a sense of tension and suspense. The other reason why the setting is not described in detail only really applies for “The Tell-Tale Heart”. And this is the sense of darkness. In the dark you cannot see ...

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