Edgar Allen Poe was a nineteenth century American poet and short story author. The Tell Tale Heart and The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe are both stories concerning madness and hysteria. Both tales are written in a gothic horror genre with the intention of chilling and unsettling the reader. This was to make them anticipate what was going to happen next in the story. Poe succeeds in creating tension by the content of the tales, partly being supernatural and suspenseful. He creates this tension by using several different techniques including plot, characterisation and themes. Poe’s work easily created tension and suspense when they were first published as he was one of the first to experiment in such taboo topics as horror.
Poe uses sporadic em dashes throughout both The Black Cat and The Tell-Tale Heart. The dashes show a break in the flow of the thoughts and speech of the narrator. This suggests disjointed thinking processes, possible insanity and a highly unreliable narrator. The story opens with the narrator confessing his unhinged nervousness; “TRUE! – Nervous – Very, very dreadfully nervous.” The narrator’s anxiety at the very beginning of the story establishes the sense of unease and ensures that the reader is feeling the full effects of the narrator’s psychological issues. The tension heightens in the reader as the narrator slowly but surely descends into madness and admits to murdering the landlord. Similarly in the Black Cat, Poe utilises em dashes in his writings, ensuring the reader feels the suspense and the tension that the narrator is feeling over murdering his wife. Like the narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart, the narrator in The Black Cat shows similar signs of anxiety and fear about being accused. The Black Cat narrator exclaims in great nervousness; “When I first beheld this apparition --for I could scarcely regard it as less--my wonder and my terror were extreme” when the cat – whom he killed – first appears in an outline in the walls. The em...
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