In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," how does the character's inaction create tension?

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chelseaosborne314 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The lack of action brings suspense to the story. As the narrator stands there night after night, looking at the old man whom he wishes to murder, the reader wonders what he will do next, or when he will murder the old man. The tension only builds as he describes how slowly he moves, how little he does in order to avoid waking the old man. The reader continuously wonders when the murder of the old man will actually take place. When he finally reaches the eighth night, when the reader knows the murder will take place, he lengthens his inaction when the old man wakes, so all he does is stand there for an hour, waiting for the old man to fall asleep again, which only adds more suspense, more tension to the event.

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The Tell-Tale Heart

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