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The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe

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Analysis of mood, imagery, and suspense in "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe

Summary:

In "The Tell-Tale Heart," Edgar Allan Poe creates a mood of intense paranoia and dread through dark imagery and meticulous descriptions of sounds and sights. The suspense builds as the narrator obsessively details his actions and thoughts, especially the beating heart, which symbolizes his guilt and growing insanity. Poe's use of vivid imagery and psychological tension keeps readers on edge throughout the story.

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What is an example of a creepy mood created in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

It is clear that in this masterful short story, Poe creates an atmosphere and mood of terror and fear. Certainly there are plenty of ways in which he does this, but you might want to consider a description from the middle of the story, whilst the narrator is in the room of the old man and is contemplating his eye, waiting to kill him. Suddenly, he is able to hear the heartbeat of the old man, thanks to the acuteness of his senses he has:

Meaning the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!

Consider how the description of the "hellish tattoo" of the old man's heart that the narrator is able to hear, and how it becomes louder and quicker every second, helps raise suspense for what is going to happen and also conveys the severe terror of the old man, who knows that someone is in the room with him and is terrified. Thus the mood of fear and terror is sustained in this section of the short story.

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What images or details in "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe create the mood?

When we read this excellent short story it is hard not to escape the fact that one of the moods that Poe so excellently created is terror and fear. This is a story that you would be wise not to read late at night if you were by yourself and in the dark! Let us explore how he establishes this mood by analysing a few key images that he creates.

I think one of the images that certainly creates this mood of horror in me is when the unnamed narrator is in the old man's room at night, silent and still, waiting to kill him, but then he hears the old man utter a groan of "mortal terror":

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief--oh, no!--it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him.

Note the description of the old man and the way that he is left prey to his own fears, which in many ways is worse than being aware of what the threat is, as our fears can "grow upon us." Also note the way that the narrator, although he pities the old man, also "chuckles at heart," making his act and the vision of him waiting silently in the old man's room whilst the old man is terrified that much more sinister and terrible.

Poe therefore creates a mood of horror and fear by deliberately playing on our own preconceptions and terrors, presenting us with a man lying awake in his bed knowing that someone or something is in the same room as him, waiting to kill him.

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What are four details Poe used to create a horror effect in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

The first paragraph of Edgar Allan's Poe's short story, The Tell-Tale Heart, sets the tone of the macabre horror that continues throughout the tale. The narrator tells us that he is not mad, but that he hears "all things in the heavens and the earth" as well as "many things in hell." In the second paragraph, the narrator continues, admitting that he "loved the old man," but that he plans to murder him anyway. The following paragraphs tell in detail how thoroughly the narrator planned his killing, looking in on the old man after he was asleep each night. The narrator's later acts describing the fear in the old man when he awakes to a noise; the murder itself; and the resulting dismemberment of the body build the horror until the climactic ending when he rips up the planks of the floor to reveal "the beating of his hideous heart."

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How does Poe use sights and sounds to build suspense in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

I think you'll find the link below to be quite informative.  Poe was a master at developing the mood of his works - he knew exactly how to make his readers feel what he wanted them to feel.  He didn't just say things were scary, gruesome, creepy, etc.  He used language that truly made his readers believe that everything going on in the story was scary, gruesome, creepy, etc.  Good luck!

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How does Poe use point of view, diction, and imagery to create menace in "The Tell-tale Heart"?

Point of view is a key choice of Poe's in "The Tell-tale Heart." The story is told in first person by the murderer. He himself questions if he is mad: "How, then, am I mad?" But at the same time, he tries to make the argument throughout that he was sane and knew exactly what he was doing. This point of view puts the reader right in the mind of the killer, who tells us he will tell the story of the murder, which certainly creates a menacing and ominous tone for the story.

With regards to diction, one of Poe's most notable devices is that of repetition. Throughout the story, he repeats certain words or phrases. For example, Poe writes, "I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out..." The repetition of the word "closed" emphasizes the darkness of the scene, which makes the narrator more menacing. Shortly after, he writes, "...I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously --cautiously..." Again the repetition is emphasizing this menacing action of the narrator creeping into the old man's room. There are many more examples of repetition that can be found throughout the story.

Lastly, Poe's use of imagery throughout the story also contributes to the menacing and ominous tone and mood of the story. For instance, we have the image of the narrator creeping in to the old man's room each night at midnight to watch him sleep, until he finally gets the nerve to kill him. This is a very menacing image.

In addition to multiple examples of visual imagery that Poe uses (another is the old man's eye: "He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it"), he uses auditory imagery extensively. The most notable is, of course, the old man's beating heart:

"...now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage."

Poe also uses wonderful similes in this passage to explain the sound.

Here is another example of auditory imagery: "As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door." Both the bell and the knocking are ominous signs that something is about to happen, something is about to change.

Poe is a master at using literary devices to create the tone and mood that he wants for a story.

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How would you paraphrase the mood of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart?

Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Tell-Tale Heart is about a man of indeterminate age who is driven insane -- but was clearly already mentally ill to some degree -- by the sight of one of the eyes of the old man with whom he shared a home. That eye, described by Poe's narrator as resembling "that of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it," is terrifying, and a constant source of anxiety. The mere sight of the old man's deformed eye sends chills down the narrator's spine or, as he states in the story, makes his blood run cold. The narrator takes pains to emphasize that he otherwise harbored no ill-will towards the old man, but that the eye was sufficient in-and-of-itself to warrant the elderly roommate's murder. 

Now, let's examine the opening passage of Poe's story, which reads as follows:

"TRUE!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?"

With this opening, Poe has established a disquieting tone. We don't yet know, of course, what will transpire, but we know that the narrator is, protestations aside, insane. And, he is not just insane, but criminally insane, as his continued narration confirms. Poe, of course, was a master of the macabre. His stories and poems are studied today because of his skills as an author, because of the unconventional themes he employed, and because of his death at a tragically early age (he was 40-years-old when he died). Poe's continued narrative describes a somewhat claustrophobic existence, with the two roommates inhabiting their own secluded little world. Because he provides the details of the old man's eye early in the story, and because he has his narrator conclude this brief description of the old man's eye with his declaration of intent to murder the old man ("—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever"), the atmosphere of fear and dread the author has created sustains the narrative throughout its duration. Adding to this sense of horror is the narrator's night-time practice, in preparation for his evil deed, of peering into the old man's bedroom to gaze upon his intended victim at rest. Bad things happen in the dark, and the old man's terror when awoken in the darkness of night pretty much follows along the path established in the above opening passage.

The Tell-Tale Heart is, obviously, a very short story, a mere six pages in length. Mood had to be established quickly, and those opening paragraphs accomplish that mission very well. Any effort at paraphrasing Poe's story, then, should begin with the characterization provided in the obviously insane narrator's protestations that he is anything but.

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What is the imagery in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

Imagery involves an appeal to the senses, and makes description more vivid to a reader's imagination. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," Edgar Allan Poe reconstructs a murder and its aftermath from the perception of its perpetrator, utilizing imagery to create suspense and convey the crazed insanity of its narrator. We see Poe using both visual and auditory imagery to create this effect.

In "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe's narrator commits his murder on account of the old man's cataract. The murderer describes it as "the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it." Later, in a more extensive passage, Poe writes:

It was open—wide, wide open—and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness—all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones

By describing the eye in such intensely descriptive terms, Poe conveys the narrator's obsession. He is fixated on this cataract to the point that he will commit murder because of it. This is clearly a disturbed individual, a factor which is also reflected in Poe's description of the crime.

In addition to Poe's use of visual imagery, we also see the invocation of auditory imagery, most notably associated with the old man's heartbeat. We can find this in a passage like the following:

now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

In the very next paragraph, the auditory imagery of the heartbeat continues:

Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!

Through his use of imagery, Edgar Allan Poe makes his writing more vivid. This lends itself greatly in creating the story's sense of suspense. In this, its use is critical in instilling the unsettling effect which this story aims to achieve.

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What is the imagery in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

Imagery is language that describes sensory experience, and it makes sense that the story would be filled with a great deal of imagery because the narrator says of himself, that "The disease had sharpened [his] senses -- not destroyed -- not dulled them."  He believes that his nervousness has actually made his senses stronger, and so he reports a great deal of sensory information in his narrative.

He mentions how, each night, he undid the lantern "cautiously -- oh, so cautiously -- cautiously (for the hinges creaked) -- [he] undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye."  Such a description contains both auditory imagery (something we can hear) with the creaking metal hinges, as well as visual imagery with the one, thin ray of light that shoots across the dark room from the lantern to the old man's face.

At another point, he describes the old man's room as "black as pitch with the thick darkness."  This description constitutes visual imagery because we can imagine the darkness that is so black that you can't even see your hand in front of your face.  The word "thick" even seems to bring a sense of tactile imagery -- something you can feel by touch -- to this description, as if the darkness is so dense that it can actually feel as though it has a weight to it.

On the night on which the narrator wakes the old man up, he imagines what the old man must be telling himself about the noise the narrator's lantern had made: "'It is nothing but the wind in the chimney -- it is only a mouse crossing the floor,' or 'It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.'"  The reader can imagine what each of these sounds like, and, when compared to the sound of metal clicking onto metal, we can see for ourselves how unconvincing these ideas would be -- metal clicking onto metal sounds nothing like crying wind or tiny tapping mouse feet or a chirping cricket.  It helps to increase our tension as suspense builds.

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What is the imagery in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

Imagery in "The Tell-Tale Heart" has also been previously discussed.  Please see the links below for more information.

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What is the imagery in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

There is great imagery (5 senses) in this story.  The first is the descriptions of the old man's eye, which is the catlyst for the murder:  "He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold." and then later, "all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones." Then, in the first half, you have repeated descriptions of the narrator's cautious, steady, silent stalking and waiting.  The most effective repeated imagery is that of the heartbeat, which starts off as "a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton," increases to a "hellish tattoo", and keeps getting "louder, louder!".  The sound of the heartbeat increases the tension just as a movie soundtrack would, and leads to the murder and confession.

Poe uses images and imagery to help the reader feel like they are actually there, experiencing the situations and emotions, and it makes for a really great story.

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What is the imagery in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

By "engage," I think this question is asking about how Poe immediately grabs reader attention from the beginning of the story.  In my opinion, this is one of the hardest things to do in writing.  If a reader starts out bored, he/she is likely to become more bored as the story progresses; however, if an author can grab attention right away, that reader is likely to stay engaged for much longer.  

I will answer this question based on the opening two paragraphs of the story.  Poe starts to grab reader attention from the first "sentence."  It's not really sentence.  It's one word.  "True!"  The reason it is engaging is because it ends in an exclamation point.  That punctuation mark makes it seem like the narrator is yelling at readers.  It's very forceful, and we immediately wonder why we are being yelled at in the first word.  Going along with the punctuation/grammar angle, Poe also includes two questions in the first paragraph.  Asking readers a question is a solid way to grab reader attention.  Readers can't help but wonder about the question and attempt some quick answers.  The questions are made further engaging by the fact that they ask about the man's sanity.  

How, then, am I mad?

The above question is also asked immediately after the man admits that he can hear things from hell.  That will definitely heighten reader interest and curiosity, and make readers want to keep reading in order to figure out exactly what this guy could have heard from hell.  

I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. 

The second paragraph is engaging because it describes a really gross looking eye, but that is not what is most engaging about the paragraph.  The 2nd paragraph's most engaging line is the last sentence, because it ends on a cliffhanger.  The narrator tells his reader that he plans to murder someone.  Readers can't help but keep reading to find out if he does it and how. 

He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees -- very gradually -- I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.  

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What is the imagery in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

Great question! Poe was definitely focused on creating mood and his writing style, which he named "arabesque," was developed specifically to create mood:

Poe believed that a story should create a mood in a reader, or evoke emotions in order to be successful, and that it should not try to teach the reader a lesson. He called his style ‘‘arabesque,’’ and it was notable for its ornate, intricate prose that sought to create a feeling of unsettlement in the reader...In ‘‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’’ an example of arabesque prose is when the narrator describes sneaking into the old man’s room in the middle of the night: ‘‘I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief—oh no!—it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe.’’ Instead of simply stating that he had heard a groan, the narrator describes the sound in detail, creating in the reader a sense of suspense and foreboding.

You might consider having students work in pairs to identify specific examples of arabesque prose, then they can simplify the words, and finally they can explain how the more ornate wording contributes to the mood. Another activity might be to show a brief clip of a suspenseful horror film, then ask your students to write a description of the scene in the style that Poe might have used.

Good luck with your lesson!

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How does Edgar Allan Poe use imagery to characterize the narrator of "The Tell Tale Heart"?

The image which the narrator returns to again and again in this story is the image of the old man's eye. It is the eye that causes the narrator's blood to boil and that drives him to murder the old man. The eye is described as "the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it." A vulture is a scavenging bird of prey. It has a rather beady eye, which usually appears rather stern and judgmental. The fact that the narrator imagines the old man's eye in this way suggests that he, the narrator, is perhaps paranoid about being watched and maybe being judged. However, the fact that the narrator says, "I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this!" could suggest that he is simply fumbling for an excuse after the murder, in retrospect, to lend some sort of rationale to the murder beyond his own madness.

Another key image that recurs throughout the story is the image of darkness. The narrator almost seems to luxuriate in the darkness of the old man's room:

I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out . . . His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness.

The narrator likes the darkness because it hides him. If he cannot be seen, then he also cannot be judged. This links back to the idea that the narrator is not comfortable exposing himself to the judgement of others. Darkness is also a common motif, in literature and film, to connote evil. The witch in Disney's Snow White, for example, wears black to indicate her evil character, and the evil characters in Star Wars are collectively known as 'The Dark Side.'

In the fifth paragraph of the story, the narrator describes himself as death:

Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim.

The narrator perhaps likes to imagine himself as the personification of death here because it allows him to feel powerful. Death is inevitable and ultimately has power over everyone. The narrator likes to feel as if he has a similar power.

The most enduring image from the story, and the image which, of course, reveals the most about the narrator's character, appears during the story's climax. This is the image of "the hideous heart" beating relentlessly, and louder and louder, beneath the floorboards. This is predominantly an example of aural imagery, or, in other words, an image which engages our sense of hearing as much as or more than our sense of sight. The relentless, agonizing beating of the heart represents the narrator's conscience, or guilt. He seems to be, throughout the story, completely mad, but the fact that his conscience, in the form of this heart, overwhelms him and forces him to admit to the murder suggests that there is just a small part of him which remains sane and perhaps moral.

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How does Edgar Allan Poe use imagery to characterize the narrator of "The Tell Tale Heart"?

The narrator describes the old man's eye with a visual image, saying, "He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it." This image helps us begin to understand what it is that really terrifies the narrator. When he says that the eye is pale blue with a film, it sounds as though the old man might have cataracts, a condition that reduces sight and makes the eye appear filmy. This is also a disease associated with old age. When the narrator describes it as a "vulture" eye, this might make us think of death since vultures prey on carcasses of dead animals. We can begin to surmise that the old man's aged, filmy eye reminds him of death, and because he is so uncomfortable with the idea of death, he wishes to rid himself of the eye: a reminder of the thing he so fears.

The narrator's description of his movements also provides many examples of imagery that help to characterize him. He says,

And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it—oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head . . . It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. . . . And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously—oh, so cautiously—cautiously (for the hinges creaked)—I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. (emphasis mine)

There are several examples here of tactile, visual, and auditory imagery. The abundance of minute, exact descriptions helps alert us to the narrator's unhealthy state of mind. He insists that he is perfectly sane and healthy, but no sane and healthy person acts the way he does in this passage and nor would such a person likely describe their movements with quite so much imagery and detail.

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How does Edgar Allan Poe use imagery to characterize the narrator of "The Tell Tale Heart"?

A fun question. Poe used images throughout the story to characterize the narrator. A few examples can be seen below.
In the first few lines, the narrator uses many images (heaven, hell, etc.) to indicate the breadth of his senses; this also shows his unbalanced mind.

When the narrator describes the eye of the old man, he uses images that show his obsessive nature, as well as his unbalanced perspective. (The "eye of a vulture"!)

At the story's end, when he gives himself away, the images of the sounds heard indicate how nervous and explosive the narrator is becoming.

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How does Poe use imagery to describe the narrator in "A Tell-Tale Heart"?

The narrator describes how he would creep into the old man's bedroom for seven straight nights and stand over him, looking for his open eye and waiting for the right time to strike:

I held a light covered over with a cloth so that no light showed. And I stood there quietly. Then, carefully, I lifted the cloth, just a little, so that a single, thin, small light fell across that eye.

On the eighth night, the narrator describes how stealthily and carefully he crept in on the man once again in his bedroom:

I continued to push the door, slowly, softly. I put in my head. I put in my hand, with the covered light.

The old man seems to know that the narrator is there in the dark, but he cannot see him or hear him. He only senses him.

I stood quite still. For a whole hour I did not move.

And finally, the narrator describes the scene when he smothers the old man in his bed and closes his evil eye for the final time.

I fell upon him and held the bedcovers tightly over his head.

As the police question him, the narrator describes himself as calm and collected, not implicating himself in the old man's disappearance. Gradually, he loses his composure as his delusion overtakes him, and he is convinced that he hears the old man's heart beating.

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How does Poe use imagery to describe the narrator in "A Tell-Tale Heart"?

Although we never get a true physical image of the narrator through direct images (ie, a pointed chin, a high forehead, etc.) the reader nonetheless has some sort of picture of the man constructed from his extreme paranoia. 

One imagines that he is rather a slight man, as he is able to move steathly and without detection, opening the door to old man's room: 

I moved it slowly, very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep.

At the end of the tale, as the narrator becomes more and more frantic, images of his desperation and nervousness are the overwhelming images.  Without Poe's saying so directly, we can "see" the image of the man as he panics, trembling and sweating and eventually shouting:

They heard!—they suspected!—they knew!—they were making a mockery of my horror!—this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die!—

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What two examples from "The Tell-Tale Heart" create an atmosphere of horror or suspense?

The narrator's description of the old man's "vulture eye" and its effect on him certainly helps to create suspense in the story.  He says, "Whenever [the eye] fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever." We do not know precisely why the old man's eye so incenses, so horrifies the narrator, and the narrator's resolution to kill the man as a means to ridding himself of the sight of this eye creates suspense and gives us a clue that there is something very seriously wrong with him.

Further, the narrator's continued insistence that he is, in fact, sane, as well as his description of how sneakily and slowly he moved into the old man's room, heightens the tense mood of the story and increases our suspense. He says, "[...] I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily—until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye." He insists that the care he takes during this process proves that he is only suffering from an "over-acuteness of the sense" and that he is not insane. His stealthiness and his certainty certainly increase the story's horror.

Moreover, his description of the sound he believes to be the old man's heart both before he kills him and after he's buried him under the floorboards makes the mood seem very eerie. He says that it sounded like a "watch [...] when enveloped in cotton." However, it is both impossible that he should hear the man's heart from across the room and from beneath his feet after the old man is dead. Therefore, we know that there is really something wrong with this narrator, and this creates suspense and horror as well.

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What is the mood and setting of "The Tell-tale Heart"?

The mood is also, as is true in many of Poe's story, one of suspense.  The night time observance of the old man, the murder, and the interview with the police are all seasons that rely upon the suspense of the reader to be effective.  Will the narrator actually kill him?  Will he confess?  These are questions that are lingered upon in detail before the answers are revealed.

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What is the mood and setting of "The Tell-tale Heart"?

Although not specific, “The Tell-Tale Heart” seems to be set within a house shared by the old man and his killer; there is some suggestion of a family relationship, as the narrator says that he loved his victim but “he did not covet the old man’s wealth.” There is a mood of paranoia throughout the story as the narrator is obsessed with the idea of the old man’s eyes, “a pale-blue, film-covered eye like that of a vulture, that he could not stand” and the “evil eye” causes his blood to run cold. The mood actually wavers between that of sheer insanity as the narrator expresses maniacal glee at the prospect of doing away with his tormentor and paranoia after the heart beat begins to drive him mad.

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What is the mood and setting of "The Tell-tale Heart"?

This question has already been asked and answered many times here on eNotes.   Here is a comprehensive link for you:  http://www.enotes.com/tell-tale-heart/q-and-a/tags/setting

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What is the mood and setting of "The Tell-tale Heart"?

The setting of the story takes place in the sitting room of a house at night. The narrator is a servant of some sort who takes care of the "old man" but is haunted by the man's evil eye. He plans to kill the man and thereby effectively rid himself of the eye. The bulk of the story tells of the deed, however, which takes place at the door to the old man's bedroom. The night is dark and still, and suspense is built because of the darkness. The night is quiet, again leading to more suspense and adding to the fear of the old man when he hears the lantern make a noise. Then, when the police arrive, the setting shifts to the very room in which the narrator has placed the old mans carved body under the floorboards. The setting is crucial here because the narrator begins to think that he can hear the heart of the old man beating beneath the floor as he tries to calmly serve tea to the officers.

This is the setting, however, for the narrators tale. It is also possible to imagine that the story is set in an interrogation room or jail cell as it is clear from the telling that the events have already passed and the murderer has confessed his deeds. Perhaps he is in an institution and is relating his tale to anyone who will listen. He needs the listener to validate his actions or to free him from the guilt he now carries for his deeds.

A final setting is the mind of the narrator. The landscape of his psyche is clouded with first justification for his action (killing the old man to get rid of the eye) and then a sense of the growing panic that fills him and leads to his confession.

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What is the mood and setting of "The Tell-tale Heart"?

Edgar Allan Poe quickly creates a mood of horror and psychological terror in the opening scenes of "The Tell-Tale Heart." It soon becomes evident that the narrator is mad, though he continually asserts that he is sane, and it seems important to him that the reader believes him to be so. But a sane man would not make the contradictory statements uttered by the narrator. Though he claims to love the old man--who has "never wronged me... had never given me insult"--he has decided to kill him because

He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold...

Most of the action takes place at night, an appropriate setting for the evil that is about to unfold, and the old man seems to have no inkling of what is about to happen to him. Poe builds the suspense by allowing the narrator to slowly plan the old man's death, looking in upon him each night at midnight; but because the old man's eye is always closed, the narrator refuses to kill him: The eye must be open before the narrator commits the deed.

When the deadly murder is finally committed, the gruesome nature of the story intensifies: The narrator "dismembered the corpse," burying the body beneath the floor. But it is no perfect crime: A cry has been heard and policemen soon arrive, an ominous sign that the narrator's careful planning may have been in vain. Poe suspensefully builds to the finale, the beating heart--unheard by the police--eventually driving the madman to a confession.

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What is the mood and setting of "The Tell-tale Heart"?

Given that the narrator is a mad, clearly very excitable man, the mood of the story is one of nervousness and apprehension at what is to come. The reader feels the jumpiness of the narrator, his eagerness to tell his story but also eagerness to have the reader understand that he is not, in fact, mad. This sense of a desire to please also has an influence on the mood, making it somewhat cloying as the narrator attempts to gain the reader's favor.

Underlying it all is a mood one might label simply as evil. The narrator's desire to prove his rational nature and to suggest that somehow this desire or decision to kill his neighbor simply "entered his mind" is not sufficient to cover up the brutality of the murder he commits.

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What is the mood and setting of "The Tell-tale Heart"?

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Identify two examples of mood in "The Tell-Tale Heart."

In Edgar Allan Poe's groundbreaking short story "The Tell-Tale Heart," there are two moods that are consistently present throughout the narrative: paranoia and claustrophobia.

The story is told from the perspective of a man experiencing hallucinations that stem from psychosis. He is paranoid about the world around him, especially the old man who lives with him. The narrator believes the old man possess the "evil eye" and that the narrator must kill the old man in order to eliminate the evil eye.

The evil eye itself causes a sort of claustrophobia for the narrator. In the narrator's view, the evil eye is akin to a radioactive material that causes negative effects. The fact that the possessor of the evil eye is his housemate makes the claustrophobic mood more palpable due to the close proximity of the old man.

This feeling of suffocation can be seen in this excerpt:

I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

The claustrophobia and his increasing paranoia were so intense that liberation could only be attained through murder. Another excerpt that shows the narrator's paranoia is this:

They heard! – they suspected! – they knew! – they were making a mockery of my horror!

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What phrases help paint the picture of the setting in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

"The Tell-Tale Heart" takes place inside the home of an elderly man. There are not a lot of details given about the home, but it is referred to as old. It is ambiguous whether the narrator lives with the old man, but he might be doing so as a tenant or as a caretaker. Since the action in the story takes place during the night, the house, particularly the old man's bedroom, is always described as being in darkness:

His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers), and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

Another factor that helps paint a picture of the setting is the sound of the "death watches" in the wall. Death watches are small beetles that bore into old wood. The sound the beetles make is similar to a ticking watch. They have been considered a bad omen, a sign that death is coming.

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What phrases help paint the picture of the setting in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

The murder takes place in an old house that produces lots of creaks and noises. The old man's room, where the stalking and murder take place, is usually very dark- "His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness." Because of this advanced darkness, the sense of sight is not in use, so the sense of sound is acute. Imagery, in this case, revolves around this sense, and the narrator begins to hear what he thinks is his victim's heartbeat. He paints a mental picture for the reader by stating that it sounds like "a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton."

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What pattern in Poe's use of auditory imagery in "The Tell-Tale Heart" creates a sense of menace?

One way to think about Poe’s use of sound in “The Tell-Tale Heart” is to think instead of the importance of silence. Silence is an expression of power for the narrator–by being silent, or be silencing noises (the old man’s heartbeat) he asserts control over his surroundings. Noises, on the other hand, represent the intrusion of disorder, a kind of aural mess that has to be “cleaned up.” The aural pattern in the story is one of silence and sound.

This pattern is evident in the old man’s murder. The narrator has silently put his head into the room – he inadvertently touches the lantern and makes a noise, alerting the old man. The narrator then remains absolutely still (“for a whole hour I did not move a muscle”). Finally, the old man groans (“the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe”). The sound of the old man’s heart beat becomes louder and louder: finally, afraid that “the sound would be heard by a neighbor,” the narrator springs on the old man and kills him, restoring silence again.

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What pattern in Poe's use of auditory imagery in "The Tell-Tale Heart" creates a sense of menace?

In Edgar Allan Poe’s story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” auditory images are very important to the tone and effect of the story. The narrator says from the start that his hearing is especially acute and that he can hear all things. He hears several types of noises throughout the story. He hears noises in the house and ticking sounds. The house noises include hinges creaking and the old man groaning. He also hears a ticking or beating sound that sounds like a watch enveloped in cotton. He believes it to be either his own or the old man’s heartbeat. Even after he kills the old man, he thinks he hears the man’s heartbeat. 

The pattern of creepy noises in the house and beating sounds increase the tension of the story. By the time the narrator is being questioned by the police, readers have been put on edge by all of the auditory sounds. When the narrator finally cries out and confesses, the tension explodes and the story comes to a close.

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What methods did Edgar Allan Poe use to create suspense in the Tell-Tale Heart?

The first line mentions madness; this is both foreshadowing (that the character will be crazy) and mystery (what will he do?). Foreshadowing is also seen in the sharp senses.

The dilemma is once he's hidden the body, the police investigate, raising the question of, will they find the body?

Reversal is a bit harder, but the very thing that he thinks will protect him (hiding the body) leads him to reveal himself. Lines like this: "If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body" show a kind of reversal. Hiding the body is intended to be wise, but is not.

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How does Edgar Allan Poe use darkness and gloom to make "The Tell-Tale Heart" Gothic?

Gothic texts combine fiction, horror, and death to prompt readers to feel extreme emotion, and "The Tell-Tale Heart" employs darkness and gloom to this effect. When the narrator describes the way he approaches the old man's darkened room each night, just at midnight, slowly inserting his head and his "dark lantern" through the door, we know what his intention is. His obsessive repetition of these actions, undertaken in darkness, only adds to the growing tension. Further, on the night the old man hears the narrator and sits up wide awake in bed, we know the narrator is waiting in the gloom, increasing our anxiety and terror for the old man's well-being. It's quite terrifying when the narrator says the old man tried to comfort himself in vain "because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim." The old man seems to know, intuitively, that he is in danger, and the fact that the narrator associates himself with Death (he is right at home in the darkness and gloom with which we often associate death) confirms the man is, indeed, in mortal danger. This all heightens our anxiety and horror, in parallel with how the old man's feelings of terror increase as well, and these feelings are the hallmark of Gothic literature.

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What words does Poe use to contribute to the atmosphere in The Tell-Tale Heart?

Edgar Allan Poe creates an atmosphere of creepiness and foreboding in his classic tale of murder, "The Tell-Tale Heart." Some of the words he chooses to implement this feeling include

  • nervous - We know from the start that the narrator is highly agitated.
  • hell - The narrator claims to hear "many things in hell."
  • haunted - Always a good word for instilling fear.
  • mad and madmen - The narrator claims that he is not mad or a madman. This is a clue that he is unstable.
  • cunningly - The narrator's cunning actions signal that he is not being entirely truthful.
  • vulture - A great description of the Evil Eye.
  • creaked - A good word for adding to the creepiness of the tale.
  • Evil Eye - This is what drove him to kill the old man.
  • vexed - We know the narrator is under a spell.
  • dissimulation - The narrator admits his deceitful behavior.
  • sagacity - Shrewdness
  • mortal terror - Extreme fear
  • dismembered - One of my favorite mental images is of the narrator cutting the body into pieces.
  • violent gesticulations - Grotesque movements.
  • dissemble - Admitted false actions.
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What words does Poe use to contribute to the atmosphere in The Tell-Tale Heart?

From the onset of his short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe puts his reader on edge with his description and rationalization of his nature:

True! Nervous-very nervous, dreadfully nervous I had been and am.  Wht why will you say that I am mad?  The disease had sharpened my senses--not destroyed, and dulled them.  I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth.  I heard many things in hell.  How then am I mad?

As this highly unreliable narrator describes what has occurred, he ironically suggests that he has no passion when the first paragraph contains ravings.  The description of the "eye of a vulture, a pale blue eye, with a film over it," certainly sets the reader a bit on edge.  Again, irony creates a tension in the narrator's declaration,

I went to work!  I was never kinder to the old man than during whole week before I killed him.

The methodical description of the narrator's process of ridding himself of the "Evil Eye," is, indeed, eerie, as he remarks upon his own "terrors that distracted [him]," as well as how the old man "feels" the presence of the narrator's head in his room.

Poe's technique, which he termed arabesque also refreshes the disturbing and macabre atmosphere of the story.  For, the narrator returns repeatedly to his opening declaration: 

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but overacuteness of the senses?

Repeatedly, too, the narrator speaks of the "hellish tattoo of the heart that grows louder, and louder until he fears that others will hear it.  Of course this "anxiety" is what brings the narrator to his final act of madness:  the tearing up of the floorboards in order to bring surcease to the beating sounds that disturb him to revealing "the beating of his hideous heart!"

Sources:

http://www.enotes.com/tell-tale-heart

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