In "The Tell-Tale Heart," what are some examples of diction that sets the mood for the story?  

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mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I want to focus on the first paragraph of this story in which Edgar Allen Poe sets the tone. In this opening paragraph, the first-person narrator repeatedly uses words like "nervous" and "mad." In addition, the narrator's self-described mental state, including his repeated discussion of his hearing-related words, gives entire story a feeling of lunacy.

In the first paragraph, the narrator constantly describes things he hears. He discusses his "acute" sense of hearing and how his "disease had sharpened his senses." In addition, the narrator describes how he has "heard all things in the heaven and in the earth" and has heard "many things in hell." In addition, the narrator consistently describes himself as not "mad." He claims that he can tell the story of his murder "healthily."

All these word choices add to the idea that this man is, in fact, crazy. These words create a tone in which the reader knows he will dive into this man's mad mind.


ms-einstein eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Examine the first paragraph and how you feel when you read it. Do you know of someone who got in trouble and yammers endless denials, ultimately proving his or her guilt? Poe sets the mood for the story in the first paragraph and continues it until the resolution . The narrator starts with an incomplete thought and then advances to the idea of madness. He admits he has a disease, but claims it has heightened his awareness. It is a classic case of the lunatic claiming he is not mad.  His references to hearing things in heaven and hell suggest his mind is unbalanced. Through careful choice of words and out-of-the-ordinary sentence structure, Poe sets a dark, troubling mood.