"With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once - once only." How do these words (yell, leaped, shrieked) build tension? How do these words make you feel...

"With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once - once only."

  1. How do these words (yell, leaped, shrieked) build tension?
  2. How do these words make you feel for the man who is murdered?
  3. Does poe's word choice make the climax more interesting? - why?
Expert Answers
boomer-sooner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Poe's use of tension in the short story The Tell-Tale Heart is increased when the moment of action is upon the reader.  Tension builds throughout the opening moments of the story as the author hides from the old man.  The vivid picture is one of stillness where movements are slow and deliberate.  Then in the blink of an eye, the dynamic of the story changes to one of forceful action.  Words like "yell",  "leaped" and "shriek" paint a picture of hurried confusion.  The scene is suddenly explosive and opposed to the earlier setting, building tension quickly as one might rev an engine.

The reader can not help but feel some empathy for the old man.  He is obviously frightened and alone in his room.  His fear is pushed to the limit with the creaking noises in his room.  Suddenly, a yell from the hidden killer and his worst nightmare is a reality.  The old man is overcome so quickly he has but one chance to scream in terror.  The scene leaves the reader with a sense of relief they are not in his place but with an understanding his last moments were terror filled before death.

Poe's word choice makes the climax more interesting because of the emotional extremes of the settings.  The quietness of the room and creaking sounds make the reader fearful their breath can be heard.  Then the scene becomes intense with action before going quiet again.  The roller coaster of emotion draws the reader into the story.  Poe then ties the killers ending to the old man by repeating the word "shriek" as the killer admits to his deed. 

vnessawong21 | Student

1. The words yell, leaped and shrieked build tension because they are strong verbs that create an action-packed atmosphere. By painting such an intense scene the author has the reader wondering "what will happen next?"

2. These words make the reader feel pity for the man being murdered. The verb shrieked shows us the man was not expecting this at all and it has taken him by surprise. The fact that he is yelled and leaped upon tells the reader he is the clear victim in this scenario.

3. Poe's choice of words makes the climax much more interesting than it would have been. Through the usage of strong verbs Poe's create a fast paced action inducing paragraph. If he had used weaker verbs such as jump and shout then the scenario painted would have been much less intense. 

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The Tell-Tale Heart

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