Why is "The Tell-Tale Heart" still widely read today?Why is "The Tell-Tale Heart" still widely read today?

Expert Answers
sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of the beauty of this story is its compact simplicity.  Poe believed firmly that a short story should be something that could be read in one sitting.  The reason he believed this was because a short story has a specific effect, and to walk away from the reading would remove the effect.

The effect of this story is powerful and successful.  Poe creates the mood of tension and anxiety within the first few lines and then builds it to the end of the story:

TRUE!—NERVOUS—VERY, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?

The short, choppy sentences and the use of the word nervoud twice in the first line sets up the mood.  Poe uses the first-person narrative to allow the audience to identify with the narrator, which also increases the suspenseful effect.  In the narrator's voice, we experience his psychological breakdown.  We feel the urgency of the beating heart, even though we know that the beating isn't real.  We experience his confession with the same sort of release he feels.

It isn't only Poe's techniques that make this a popular story.  The experience of the narrator, while beyond the normal experience, is presented in a very believable way.  Most readers can identify with being freaked out by some small thing, and can also identify with the overwhelming feeling of guilt that manifests in the beating heart.  It is a scary horror story because it so close to being real.  The narrator's rational explanation of the murder helps to underline this sense of reality.

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is still widely read today, because it is such a great story.  It has a fascinating narrator who confesses to murder right off the bat-that is a great hook to get people interested.  Then his description of the eye, the waiting in the dark, the horror of the old man, the audacity of placing the police right above the body, the beating heart, and the gushing confession...all are just so well-writtng, suspenseful, and intense.  So, it is, at its core, just a great story.

Another reason that it is still widely read today is that it is relatively short and easy to understand; this is a great asset when teaching short stories, and helps students to keep their attention focused the entire time, and to comprehend it.

One last reason that it is still widely read today is that in recent years, the horror/suspense genre has taken off.  It has become really, really popular.  Just look at all of the horror movies that come out every month; people like horror, especially these days.  So, that is another reason it is read today-its genre fits a popular style.

I hope that those thoughts help!  Good luck!

dswain001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Simply put: The Tell-Tale Heart is a classic. Because this as well as many of Poe's other works have been deemed as such, they continue to be written into curriculum and printed into textbooks. As a result, new generations of readers are being introduced to the story and becoming fans of Poe's work. The great thing about literature is that it is timeless. While the stories and characters change, the themes remain the same. Love, Revenge, Family and in the case of the Tell-Tale Heart...cold-blooded murder.

Don't we all LOVE  to see the antagonist get his comeuppance? Who doesn't love a good spooky story? When it comes to the dark and dreary, Edgar Allen Poe is one of the best which is why people will probably be reading his works for years to come.

morrol eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that what makes "The Tell-Tale Heart" so appealing for high school teachers is the theme. I love this story because it succinctly and effectively deals with the universal and timeless theme of guilt. This theme is dealt with beautifully in many great works of literature; "Crime and Punishment", "Tess of the d'Urbervilles", "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Amazingly, Poe is able to consider the idea of guilt in short story. I love teaching this story because it is so powerful and yet accessible at the same time.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Tell-Tale heart" is a classic horror story that illustrates every component of effective composition. It is an easy read, comparatively speaking, for the average high school freshman, yet it exposes the student to one of the master authors of American literature. It is both complex and accessible.

For high school students to receive a broad-based education, they need to be exposed to a wide variety of literature. This story illustrates all the elements of the Romantic and the Gothic.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Everyone loves a good thriller.  Just take a look at the TV show listings--it's cluttered with shows like Medium, Haunted History, Ghost Hunters, and others just like it which point out our love of the paranormal and thriller-type stories.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Also, the writing style that Poe employs contains so many audience "hooks" that one cannot help but be drawn into the narrative.  While reading, our hearts are beating just as fast as that of the narrator and the suspense is amazing.

speechteach | Student

The story is still popular and read today because our society loves this kind of gore.  Our newspapers and televisions are full of this kind of story; however, many times the stories are on the 10 o'clock news and not necessarily on the sci-fi channel. When Poe wrote this story over 100 years ago, I am sure he never imagined a society that would thrive on this kind of deed, but here we are with movies like Saw, Paranormal Activity and the like.  We are fascinated with blood, guts, and gore. Daily headlines tell of murders and crimes far worse than Poe's stories.  We are numb to this type of thing after all of this time, yet we love to read about the bad guy getting caught in the end.  I personally cannot stand horror films or being scared although a good dose of Poe every now and then is just what I want.  I think, however, this is because I know that it is fiction.  Wonder what Mr. Poe would say if he came back and watched the news or read the headlines.  Would he be mortified by what our "civilized" society has become?

epollock | Student

The "Tell-Tale Heart" is an American classic. The teller of Poe’s tale is a classic unreliable narrator. The narrator is not deliberately trying to mislead his audience; he is delusional, and the reader can easily find the many places in the story where the narrator’s telling reveals his mistaken perceptions.

His presentation is also deeply ironic: the insistence on his sanity put his madness on display. The first paragraph alone, brief as it is, should provide fertile ground for readers to find evidence of his severe disturbance.

From there, readers for years have discussions of the subsequent manifestations of his madness—his perception of the old man’s eye as a thing in itself, his extreme attention to details and matters that others could find insignificant is not irrelevant; his fixation on a single objective for an insanely long period of time; his need to flaunt his brilliance,
even if only to himself, by inviting the police into the house; and so on.

Is it his beating heart that he hears at the end?  Are the police really there or a figment of his imagination.  The short story is so ambiguous, students of any class will have something to say about it.