Do "The Tell-tale Heart" and "The Open Window" differ in terms of mood and point of view?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-tale Heart" and H.H. Munro's "The Open Window" are both very different in terms of mood and point of view.

Poe's classic tale of horror, "The Tell-tale Heart," is told from the first person point of view, by a murderer who is insane. The story is about the narrator's descent into madness, caused by the sight of the staring eye of the old man he lives with, which haunts the narrator to the point that the narrator kills the man, buries him under the floorboards, and then is haunted over and again by the ceaseless sound of the man's still-beating heart. The mood is very dark, creating the sense of horror that so many of Poe's stories are famous for.

On the other hand, "The Open Window" is told from the third person point of view. We learn from the narrator that the visiting Mr. Framton Nuttel has come to the country to tend to nervous agitation from which he suffers. He has arrived at the Sappleton's home by letter of introduction, never having met the family, but recommended by his sister who had visited the area some years before. There is the gentle telling of the horror story by the young girl who entertains Framton until his hostess arrives. The niece describes the significance of the open window, left that way since the tragic loss of Mrs. Sappleton's husband and two young brothers while out hunting. The window, the niece explains, is left that way each day because her aunt is certain they will still return home even after three years.

When Mrs. Sappleton joins them, she comments on the open window and the impending return of the men from their hunting trip. The hostess then remarks upon their appearance as they now cross the lawn; Framton first assumes it is a result of her "unhinged mind," but then he looks to observe horror on the face of the niece, and finally turns to see for himself the men coming across the lawn. His nervous state cannot handle the idea of welcoming ghosts, and he flees. While there is not the same kind of horror in this story (one could describe it as "delicious") as there is with Poe's tale, it might provide the reader with a sense of fear except for the closing line which alters the mood entirely—and artfully.

The closing comment of the author brushes aside any sense of horror and provides us with a glimpse of mischief at the hands of the young niece:

Romance at short notice was her speciality.