Reader’s today might find the story not so unusual. Consider all of the horror in the last 20 or 30 years. Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacey, Jeffrey Dahmer. The sad fact is that horror of stories like this used to be unimaginable, but now the stories sometimes dominate the news.
I know that when I read this with my students, they go crazy---they love it! It seems that gore and chopping up bodies and burying them is what catches students' attention these days!
So many movies show so many grotesque and gory images that Poe's story seems tame by comparison.
I think that students definitely struggle with the narrator and certainly with the language of the story, which is rather formal and not at all how they talk nowadays.
When they get past the unreliablity of the narrator and the formal, complex language, they easily grasp the story and certainly do enjoy it.
I also read "Hop Frog" by Poe about a crippled dwarf that seeks revenge...kids think that one's great too!
I think that today's readers are more desensitized to gore and horror. When Poe wrote "The Tell Tale Heart", the general population was not exposed to dismemberment like that on a regular basis. Poe's contemporary audience had never seen "Saw". It's a shame, but I really think that a contemporary audience is not as shocked by the story as audiences in the past.
I think that, at the time that “The Tell-Tale Heart” was written, back in 1843, this short
story would have been very effective as a first person horror narrative, as it explores
many themes, like obsession and insanity. However, I do not feel that, in today’s
world, this story would have the same, powerful, effect. This is because things like
insanity and murder is very common in this day and age, so those themes which are
used in “The Tell-Tale Heart” will not be as much as a scare or shock to us. However,
I think that people nowadays would still be able to feel a part of the story, as the
techniques used are foolproof and won’t change their amount of effect no matter how
many years go on.
Poe's work is a vehicle for student emotional reaction and a creative springboard for writing. Instructor's can make use of his diligent use of literary devices, which students eagerly seek to explore due to their interest in his work. Poe was not timid about his subject matter and this ignites the student. "The Tell Tale Heart" depicts Poe at his best. It is interesting to have students crawl through his passages in search of literary devices that can compare to today's contemporary authors.
I could see most readers react to this story with delight. Everyone loves a great thriller, and coupled with a murder and an ingenious criminal, it has all the aspects of a great made-for-tv movie.