The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

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How do some literary techniques used by Edgar Allan Poe in his short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" affect the story's meaning and effectiveness?

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Edgar Allan Poe uses a wide variety of literary techniques in his short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” to enhance the story’s effectiveness and to emphasize its meanings.  Among those techniques are the following:

  • Plunging into the midst of things (in medias res), as in the very first sentence, which takes us by surprise and places us immediately inside the head of the “nervous” narrator.
  • Using a first-person narrator whose mental state is questionable (to say the least), thus creating suspense not only about the story’s plot but about the condition of the narrator’s mind.
  • Having the narrator directly address an unknown “you” (as in the first sentence), so that even more curiosity is created.  Whom is the narrator addressing? What are the circumstances of the address? Is the narrator perhaps addressing us (as readers) directly?  The “dialogic” opening of the story creates an effect of “you are there,” as if the story is taking place in the present moment.
  • Making mysterious allusions, as in the intriguing reference to “the disease” in the second sentence.  As soon as we read this sentence, we want to know what disease the narrator has in mind, how far it may have progressed, how it may have affected him, etc.
  • Alliteration, as in all the “h” sounds of the final sentence. These help reinforce our sense of the narrator’s excitement and of his emphatic phrasing.
  • Repetition, as in the phrases “how healthily – how calmly” in the final sentence of the first paragraph. Repetition again reveals the narrator’s emphatic phrasing, his intense desire to be heard and understood.
  • Irony , as in...

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