How Effective Is Edgar Allan Poe's 'the Tell Tale Heart' as a Gothic Horror?

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‘How effective is Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell Tale’ Heart’ as a gothic horror?’ The short story ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ was written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1843. It is written in first person in the past tense. The story opens in the middle of what seems to be a dialogue between the narrator and his audience. We learn that the narrator looks after an old man with a pale blue eye; he describes it as being like that of a ‘vulture’. We are told that the eye disturbs the narrator, for this reason the narrator decides to take the old man’s life. During the seven days before the murder, the speaker is extremely kind to his victim in the day time. However, in the night he would creep into the old man’s room awaiting the appearance of the ‘Evil’ eye. On the eighth night the old man wakes up, the eye causes the narrator to suddenly lash out and kill the old man. He ‘dismembers’ the corpse and stores it under the floor boards. The police visit his house due to a shriek heard by a neighbour. At first he is calm and sure of himself, but becomes increasingly nervous and seems to go insane. The narrator admits his crime to the police even though they have no apparent suspicions. The dark and mysterious setting of Poe’s story is typical of a gothic horror. We learn from early on that the narrator is actually the villain. He speaks directly to the reader, creating a personal bond which we do not share with any other character. We know very little about the victim which prevents us from empathising with him later on in the story. The narrator is a very complex character, he seems to have a distorted view of the world around him and we assume him to be mad. Madness is a popular theme of gothic horror and one of the reasons the story is so effective is because of the erratic way in which it is told. Some events of the tale seem to be unrealistic and this adds mystery to the horror. The main event of the tale, the murder, is also common in the gothic horror genre. Because of these links to a general tale of gothic horror, I believe Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ is very effective. Within the first paragraph I get the impression that the speaker is mad and disturbed. He accuses the audience of thinking he is mad by saying ‘why will you say that I am mad?’ This causes us to question his sanity because he has no reason to say this. Now that the theme of madness is fresh in our heads, as we continue to read the story the idea that the narrator is ‘mad’ comes to mind easily. I get the impression that he is insecure and possibly knows he is insane because he’s trying to persuade us otherwise. The narrator speaks at a very fast pace using disjointed sentences such as, ‘True!-nervous-very, very dreadfully nervous!’ The vast amount of punctuation makes this sentence choppy and slow to read causing you to trip over what he is saying. This manner of dialogue reflects his frantic personality. Also, the narrators distorted view of things reinforces the horror genre. We assume that he has a distorted view because he expresses his ‘love’ for the old man yet soon explains his wishes to take his life. There is a paradox in this situation and shows us how scrambled his thoughts are. The idea of the narrator not thinking straight and being irrational excites the audience. It also adds to the effectiveness of the gothic horror. When I first read ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ I felt eager to find out the narrator’s later actions. This backs up my earlier idea of both the story and narrator being extremely effective as a gothic horror. When the speaker tells us he is going to ‘take the old man’s life’ our opinion of him changes. We begin to realise that he could be evil and cold hearted. He makes it clear that the old man has ‘never wronged’ him, this is strange because this would make the only reason for murder the man’s ‘diseased’ eye. This seems extremely unnecessary and cruel; this behaviour has a great link with gothic horror. Also, it is frightening to think...
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