How are symbols and motifs used to create suspense and meaning in ''Tell-Tale Heart'' and the Psycho film?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since both "The Tell-Tale Heart" and Hitchcock's Psychoare Gothic in nature, there are dark and foreboding objects.  One animal that is depicted in both stories is the large bird;  in Poe's tale, the vulture eye of the old man is mentioned several times by the narrator, while in Psycho there are large dead stuffed birds that loom over Marion Crane in her motel room. 

Spying upon their victims, both the narrator of Poe's tale and Norman Bates of Psycho view their victims surreptitiously.  However, in "The Tell-Tale Heart," the old man does realize that the narrator is watching him, while Marion does not know of Norman's voyeurism.

Of course their is the motif of terror that predominates both works.  As the old man realizes that

Death, in approaching him, had stalked with his black shadow before him and enveloped him.

Likewise, Marion utters shrieks as the unknown woman suddenly and repeatedly stabs at her in the shower.  After having committed their dastardly deeds, both the narrator and Norman Bates resume their normal activities and when the authorities come to ask questions, they are cooperative.  Finally, however, both Norman and the narrator come undone with the narrator claiming that the heart is yet beating under the floor boards where he has buried the old man while Norman claims that his mother has killed the girl in a jealous rage.


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The Tell-Tale Heart

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