On the basis of "The Tell-Tale Heart," why does Poe continue to have a hold on the American imagination?
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I think the success of this story lies in the feelings of horror and terror it conjures up as we see a murder committed through the eyes of the murderer himself, who is, in addition, a profoundly unreliable narrator. This adds a unique and striking element to the narrative, as we have to try and piece together the confused motives that the narrator has, and his confused feelings towards the old man that he kills.
He has a grip on the American imagination because of master craftsmanship. From almost the very beginning of the story, we know the horror of the inevitable outcome for the old man. We know that they narrator is insane even though he works so diligently to convince us (and himself) differently. And yet, we wait breathlessly for the outcome. This can only be attributed to Poe's master craftmenship.
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