How does Edgar Allan Poe use darkness and gloom to make "The Tell-Tale Heart" a Gothic Story?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gothic texts combine fiction, horror, and death to prompt readers to feel extreme emotion, and "The Tell-Tale Heart" employs darkness and gloom to this effect. When the narrator describes the way he approaches the old man's darkened room each night, just at midnight, slowly inserting his head and his "dark lantern" through the door, we know what his intention is. His obsessive repetition of these actions, undertaken in darkness, only adds to the growing tension. Further, on the night the old man hears the narrator and sits up wide awake in bed, we know the narrator is waiting in the gloom, increasing our anxiety and terror for the old man's well-being. It's quite terrifying when the narrator says the old man tried to comfort himself in vain "because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim." The old man seems to know, intuitively, that he is in danger, and the fact that the narrator associates himself with Death (he is right at home in the darkness and gloom with which we often associate death) confirms the man is, indeed, in mortal danger. This all heightens our anxiety and horror, in parallel with how the old man's feelings of terror increase as well, and these feelings are the hallmark of Gothic literature.

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The Tell-Tale Heart

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