What are the grotesque elements in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the short story 'The Tell-Tale Heart' by Edgar Allen Poe, the author uses two elelments of the grotesque in particular. For example, firstly he uses a menacing building of tension, The effect on the reader of this technique is that we almost guess and dread what is coming next - but the author makes us wait and wait for the terrible attack. He has us watch the old man sleeping, maybe turning over or sighing and even,at one point, starting up and shouting out. We watch the pained long-drawn out silence of the waiting by the doorway and creeping gradually into the chamber. Then, the next element is surprise as the perpetrator pounces. The Victorian reader was very fond of the grotesque and the more Gothic the better!

mkcapen1 | Student

In the short story "The Tell Tale Heart" one of the grotesque devices the writer used is in his description of the old man's eye. The reader gets a good vision of what the eye looks like when light reflects on it.  It is a disturbing sight the words disclose.

"until at length a single dim ray like the thread of the spider shot out from the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye."

"all a dull blue with a hideous veil over it"

As the man begins to descend further into madness the reader also experiences the grotesque details of the man's murder and burial in the floorboards of the house..

"With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once -- once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him."

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The Tell-Tale Heart

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