Descriptive Language In The Tell Tale Heart Essay

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How does Edgar Allan Pow use language to create suspense and terror in The Tell Tale Heart?

An unnamed narrator opens the story by addressing the reader and claiming that he is nervous but not mad; of this he is certain shown by the quote “TRUE! Nervous very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad?”, directly challenging the reader before anything else.   He says that he is going to tell a story in which he will defend his sanity yet confess to having killed an old man. Atmosphere and tension are created by using short, sharp sentences such as “I heard many things in hell.”. His motivation was neither passion nor desire for money, but rather a fear of the man’s ”pale blue eye”. Again, he insists that he is not crazy due to his cool and measured actions, though criminal, are not those of a madman.   Every night, he went to the old man’s apartment and secretly observed the man sleeping, here he creates tension by the language he uses, he explains how slow he is going, how cautious and how “the minute hand on a clock moved faster than his own”, this is emphasised by the quote “And then when my head was well in the room I undid the lantern cautiously – oh, so cautiously – cautiously (for the hinges creaked)” an obvious over exaggeration, but he uses the likeness of a clock hand to show the intensity and precision of his actions. In the morning, he would behave as if everything were normal. After a week of this activity, the narrator decides, somewhat randomly, that the time is right actually to kill the old man.

When the narrator arrives late on the eighth night, though, the old man wakes up and cries out. The narrator remains still, stalking the old man as he sits awake and frightened. The narrator understands how frightened the old man is, having also experienced the lonely terrors of the night. Soon, the narrator hears a dull pounding that he interprets as the old man’s terrified heartbeat. Worried that a neighbour might...

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