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What are the main gothic elements in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

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aluckett001 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 2, 2008 at 8:37 AM via web

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What are the main gothic elements in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 2, 2008 at 8:54 AM (Answer #1)

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Gothic literature is characterized by a fascination with death, decay, and gloominess.  In Poe's story, death as obsession is evident.  The insane narrator can think of nothing else but killing the old man with whom he lives.  And, as with many gothic tales, there is a focal point for the death-obsession.  In this story, it is the old man's eye:

One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture—a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.

Decay is evident not only in the descriptions of the old man's failing body, but also in the house itself.  The physical manifestations of inanimate objects, like houses, is also a component of gothic literature.  In this case, the dim lighting, the creaking door hinges, and the loose floorboards are evidence of decay.

Gloominess, too, is ever-present in Poe's gruesome, gothic tale:

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief—oh, no! it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me.

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