How do the tones and settings of Poe's stories affect the reader's response to the characters?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edgar Allan Poe's regular use of darkness and late night settings is a primary way in which he creates a sense of evil and danger in his short stories. This is the typical setting in most of his classic tales, including "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado," and "The Pit and the Pendulum." The mysterious aura that hangs over these stories helps to create characters who range from distinctly evil to slightly sympathetic. The fact that many of the characters perform their reprehensible acts in near total darkness helps to intensify their deviant personalities, and the reader cannot help but be affected by this as well. Although several of the main characters in Poe's stories not only narrate but commit murderous acts (such as Montresor in "The Cask" and the madman of "The Tell-Tale Heart"), it is hard to sympathize with them because of their deliberate and well-planned crimes. Even the victims, such as the old man in "The Tell-Tale Heart" and Fortunato in "The Cask," are not completely innocent characters; the old man's eye is associated with evil, and Fortunato has committed unknown crimes against his murderer. Unlike many other stories, in which the protagonists and antagonists are easily identifiable and are usually more one-dimensionally good or bad, Poe's characters all seem to possess a touch of evil--easily identified by most readers.

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The Tell-Tale Heart

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