Imagine living with someone who despises you because of your eye. That’s exactly what was happening with the old man and the narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “Tell Tale Heart”. The “Tell Tale Heart” is about a narrator having an urge to kill the old man because of his vulgar eye, but when the deed is done, not everything goes according to plan. Poe creates fear and dread throughout the story with the charters, build up of suspense, and the explicit details. Poe creates fear and dread within the two main characters, the narrator and the old man.
He creates fear through the narrator with his voice and repetition, his insanity, and his deceitfulness. Throughout the story, the narrator has continuous small laughs to himself, mainly representing he thinks this is comical that he is going to the kill the old man. Also after he was done killing the man and getting rid of his remains, he laughs to himself signifying that he was so carful in his cleanup no one would suspect a thing. Another repetition in the story is the narrator saying he is nervous. “True! – Nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad” (Poe 303).
He is nervous about killing the old man but he says that the though of killing him sharpened his sensed bot dulled them, so why is h nervous? Another way Poe creates fear and dread throughout the story is with the narrator’s insanity. The narrator talked about how he would go into the old mans room every night at the same time for a whole week just to watch him sleep. The way he took an hour just to open the door a crack to the old mans room shows how precise and sneaky this crime was going to be. Another detailed explanation the narrator gives that leaves us to believe he is insane is the way he got rid of the body. There was nothing to wash out – no stain of any kind – no blood-spot whatever” (Poe 305). He also says no human eye could have detected anything wrong which was how Poe created fear. If the narrator can dismantle a body and get rid of it without anything looking different or anyone suspecting a thing, one would question his mental stability and if his mind is in the right place. The final way Poe creates fear and dread through the narrator is through his deceitfulness. The narrator states that the week leading up to the killing he was very kind to the old man.
He makes the old man trust him and think he is good person when in reality he is planning a brutal death for the old man. Another was Poe creates fear and dread through the characters is with the old man and his creepy eve, his unawareness of what is about to happen, and through the old mans own fears he has. The narrator describes the old mans eye as a vulture eye, pale blue with a film over it. The eye is the whole reason the narrator decides to kill the old man, so you can only imagine how unsightly the eye really was.
Another way Poe creates fear and dread is through the fact that the old man has no idea what is about to happen but the readers do: And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. (Poe 303) This symbolizes that the old man does not suspect the narrator is watching him at night and planning to kill him, where the readers know he is going to die, they just don’t know when. The final way Poe created fear and dread through the old man was with his own fears.
When the narrator is in the bedroom with the old man moments before he kills him, he says his heart is beating louder and louder, signifying the old man is scared of something. Also when the narrator enters his room on the eighth night, his thumb accidentally slipped and made a noise and the old man sprung up right away and stayed awake for an hour to make sure nothing was going to happen, when in reality it’s the narrator about to kill him. Poe builds fear and dread throughout the story with the build up of suspense, which is exemplified with the setting of the scene and the fact that the narrator is speaking in first person.
He created suspense through the setting of the scene because it takes place at night, the arrival of the police, and when he has tea with the police. Whenever something takes place at night it automatically makes it a little more terrifying. The narrator would go into the old mans room at the dead of night every night for seven days because of fascination with the old mans eye. He sneaks into the room and holds a lantern over his eye in hopes the eye will be open so he can look at it. Another way he creates suspense is when the police arrive.
When the policed arrived, it made the readers wonder if he was going to get caught for his crimes or if he was going to play it off. The tension seems to fade for a while until he invites the police in for tea, which is the final way he created suspense through the setting. The narrator explains that The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. Poe 306) The readers would think that because he invited the officers in he was okay with the crime he committed. Another way Poe created suspense throughout the story was because it was written in first person. Because it was written in first person, it made you question what was real or fake, what was going to happen next, and it just made the story more suspenseful since the person who killed the old man is telling the story. Because the narrator seemed to be insane, it made someone question what was real or fake throughout the story. “But the beating grew louder, louder!
I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me – the sound would be heard by a neighbor” (Poe 305). In reality a heart could not have beaten so loud that someone in a different house could hear. Another way he used first person narrative to create suspense is because you are not sure what is going to happen next. Throughout the story, the narrator does not use logic when making decisions so you never know what his next move is. You know he is going to kill the old man but the way he killed him and got rid of his body came as a surprise.
Finally, first person is strongest tool for creating suspense. By hearing a story from the criminal who created the crime you are hearing about, it terrifies you more than if you were reading an article written by someone else. The final way Poe creates fear and dread throughout the Tell Tale Heart is with the tremendous details of killing the old man and the police arriving to the house. The way he used details during the narrator killing the old man is with the explanation of the old mans room, killing him, and disposing of the body.
First, when the narrator enters the room he describes it like “His room was as black as a pitch with the think darkness (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear or robbers)” (Poe 304). He also says the room was so dark the old man would not be able to see the door creeping open. Another way he uses details to create fear is with the killing of the old man. After taking an hour to open the door just enough to sneak by, it was finally time for the narrator to kill the old man. He leaped onto the old man and dragged him onto the floor and put the bed on top of him.
He waited awhile until the heartbeat was gone and he was satisfied with his deed. The final way he used details is through the morbid way he dismantled the body. “I cut off the head and the arms and the legs. I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings”(Poe 305). Another way Poe uses details to create fear is with the police arriving. First, is when the police first arrived to the house, and he showed them around. “I bade them search – search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed” (Poe 306).
He then brought chairs into the room and sat down happily to speak with the officers. After the narrator had convinced the officers of his innocence, he started to hear a ringing in his ear. He started to get a headache and his face grew pale. “It was a low, dull, quick sound – much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton” (Poe 306). With the sound of ringing taking over his thoughts, the narrator couldn’t help but confess to his crime. The narrator’s confession leads into the final way Poe created details through the cops showing up. “Villans! ‘I shrieked, ‘dissemble no more! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks! – Here, here! – It is the beating of his hideous heart” (Poe 306).
The ringing in the ear was too much for the narrator to happen he couldn’t help but confess to killing the old man and his roommate. As one can see, even the most confident people still struggle with guilt on the inside. Killing the old man was too much to bear for the narrator; he couldn’t help but confess his crime. The fear Poe created with the characters, build up of suspense and the great amount of detail made the reader connect with the story on a more personal level because the narrators actions seemed real and convincing.