illustration of a human heart lying on black floorboards

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe

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How does the author of "The Tell-Tale Heart" use first person, sentence styles, and punctuation to engage the reader?

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In the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe, the author appears to deliberately choose the First Person voice for his speaker. The first person voice is usually very personal and engaging. In this particular genre (crime/horror/gothic) the first person voice adds the extra dimension of intriguing the reader's curiosity about what it is like to be a murderer. To hear a murderer speak about his motives is very gripping and compelling, and to outline his scheming and planning in such a disjointed and crazy way is also quite shocking. The first person voice allows the murderer to speak directly to his reader and let them share the mad recesses of his mind, as well as the cold lucid moments when he covers the crime.

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Edgar Allan Poe's use of the devices mentioned above certainly do help to maintain interest in his short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart."

FIRST PERSON.  Poe's use of first person narrative allows the reader to see inside the mind of the madman who kills and then dismembers his "friend." A third person narrative would show a far more detached feel with a less personal approach than through the protagonist's own eyes.

PUNCTUATION AND SENTENCE STYLES.  Poe makes great use of the slash (or separatrix), especially in the opening paragraphs. It allows for a stop-start, choppy flow which seems to illustrate the mental instability and actions of the narrator. The constant use of the slash also allows for the narrator to include personal, exclamatory remarks within the sentence to further define the narrator's mood. Poe also uses an abundance of short sentences that give the story a hurried, almost desperate feel.


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