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What is Poe's purpose for writing "The Tell-Tale Heart," including the background for...

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gejo | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 8, 2007 at 11:17 PM via web

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What is Poe's purpose for writing "The Tell-Tale Heart," including the background for the piece?

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angelacress | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted April 9, 2007 at 1:14 AM (Answer #1)

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It is a difficult thing to pinpoint the exact purpose of a deceased author, however, by examining the context (the events in Poe's life and the society in which he was living) in which the story is written, we can make educated guesses about what may have influenced a particular piece of writing; in this case "The Tell-Tale Heart."

First of all, one should examine the nature of Gothic literature, a genre popular in the late eighteenth century in England. Many scholars say that Poe single-handedly brought the Gothic genre to America. Gothic literature explores the dark side of human experiences: death, alienation, nightmares, ghosts, and haunted landscapes. American Gothic literature dramatizes a culture plagued by poverty and slavery through characters afflicted with various forms of insanity and melancholy. Poe created his take on the Gothic genre from his own experiences in Virginia and other slaveholding territories. The black and white imagery in his stories reflects a growing national anxiety over the issue of slavery.

However, this is not all that influenced the work of Edgar Allen Poe. The often tragic circumstances of Poe’s life haunt his writings. A tendency to cast blame on others, without admitting his own faults, characterized Poe’s relationship with many people. There are echoes of Poe’s upbringing in his works, as sick mothers and guilty fathers appear in many of his tales, like the sick father in "The Tell-Tale Heart."

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brendawm | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted December 26, 2007 at 12:24 PM (Answer #2)

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“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a psychological thriller in which we get a peek into the mind of a man driven mad after murdering another man by what he thinks is the victim’s relentless heartbeat.  As to the purpose of the piece, Poe himself thought that in order for literature to be considered good it should evoke emotions from the reader and create a feeling of unity between the two.  ‘‘The Tell-Tale Heart’’  is a perfect example of Poe’s ability to reach the dark side that exists in all humans, and it would seem that it is with that purpose in mind that this story was written.

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brendawm | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted December 26, 2007 at 12:25 PM (Answer #3)

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“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a psychological thriller in which we get a peek into the mind of a man driven mad after murdering another man by what he thinks is the victim’s relentless heartbeat.  As to the purpose of the piece, Poe himself thought that in order for literature to be considered good it should evoke emotions from the reader and create a feeling of unity between the two.  ‘‘The Tell-Tale Heart’’  is a perfect example of Poe’s ability to reach the dark side that exists in all humans, and it would seem that it is with that purpose in mind that this story was written.

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