Name _________________________ Edgar Allan Poe
Directions: Read both short responses below. Annotate the parts of the short responses with ESSAC.
Short Response #1
In Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart," the old man's eye is a symbol of evil. In the piece, the narrator conveys the ominous feeling surrounding the eye, noting its similarity to that of a "vulture eye" (10). Poe's imagery of the vulture, a widely known bird of prey, black in color, makes it clear to the reader that this eye is a symbol of dark power. In addition, the eye is the narrator's reason for killing the old man, admitting that "Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold" (7). Essentially, this ominous feeling serves as the narrator's motivation to commit such an evil act, and may characterize the narrator as evil himself. Through these examples, the reader learns that evil, even if wrongly perceived, can have a crippling impact on anyone.
Short Response #2
The old man’s eye in Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” is symbolic of an omnipresent being having the ability to see all and know all. In the exposition of the story, the narrator assigns supernatural powers to the eye by claiming it has the ability to cause his “blood [to run] cold” (7). After the deed of killing the old man is complete, the narrator places his dismembered corpse under the floorboards of the room and proclaims that he did such an acceptable job at concealing his crime “that no human eye – not even his – could have detected any thing wrong” (12). Poe’s imagery in establishing the superhuman powers of the eye is conveyed by the narrator’s perception of the effects the eye has on him. As a result, the narrator may be characterized as delusional because he is convinced that the eye has the power to see and know more of which a normal is capable.
Short Response #3
In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe employs the symbol of the old man's eye to convey a feeling of evil to the reader. In the exposition, the narrator professes his love for the old man; however, the irony of this statement is revealed when he notes that the man's "eye of a vulture" made "[his] blood [run] cold." It is because of this overwhelming sensation that the narrator is determined to kill the old man, "and thus rid myself of the eye forever." For some unexplained reason, Poe's narrator feels that the old man's eye is evil, and therefore should be destroyed, even though it is part of a man whom he claims to love. Perhaps the evil that the eye emits is not indicative of the old man's qualities, but the evil that lurks within the narrator as he describes the effect of the eye using words that would be typically be used when describing a corpse. Consequently, seeing the eye reminds the narrator that he is capable of such demonic thoughts like killing a defenseless, kind old man. The narrator wants to keep such abominations hidden, and he does not want to even admit to himself that he thinks such thoughts. These thoughts compounded with the narrator’s word choice help to characterize the narrator as wicked.
Short Response #4 In “The Tell-Tale Heart” Edgar Allan Poe uses the heartbeat to parallel the narrator’s anxiety. On the eighth night he looks at the old man’s eye and hears “the hellish tattoo of the heart increas[ing]” (11). The imagery is meant to resemble a drumbeat calling soldiers into battle as the sight of the eye is compelling him to take action and follow through with the murder plan. After suffocating the old man with the mattress, he notes that “for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased” (11). Poe’s word choice shows the narrator’s emotions at different parts of the plot. When he is feeling a heightened sense of anxiety, the heartbeat sounds like a reveille. In contrast, when he feels a low level of nervousness, the beat is calmed and quieted accordingly. As a result, these references to beating at various points of the plot characterize the narrator as volatile and unpredictable. Readers may choose to call him a “ticking time bomb” just waiting to go off.
Short Response #5
The beating of the heart in Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” is meant to symbolize the narrator’s subconscious guilt. Over the course of the story, there are multiple times when the narrator refers to hearing a beating in various forms. For example, during the narrator’s eighth nighttime visit into the old man’s room, he claims that “there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound too well. It was the beating of the old man’s heart” (10). The reason he knows the sound “too well” is actually because the heartbeat he hears is his own. This theory is confirmed later when, while sitting with the police officers who are allegedly mocking him, he hears the same sound again, but this time he notes that “the noise steadily increased” (13). The noise increases at the same rate as the narrator’s guilt. Poe’s word choice of simple sentences and two-syllable words help to produce the sound of a heartbeat. The final paragraphs are littered with these choices as the story comes to a heightened ending. It is only at the end of the story, when the narrator may be characterized as manic, that he is compelled to confess to the crime after he can no longer endure the torment of the guilt he is denying.
Short Response #6
In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe employs the symbol of the beating heart to convey the narrator’s heightened delusional thought processes at specific points in the story. In the exposition of the piece, the narrator admits his sensory dysfunction by professing that, “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” (7). After his climactic killing of the old man, the narrator tries to evade the police by hiding the old man’s body under the floor boards and chatting with them calmly upon their arrival. His guilt, however, becomes unbearable as he begins to hear the old man’s heart beating under the floor. He describes is as “a low, dull quick sound –much like such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton” (13). As his guilt and anxiety rise, the pace and volume of the heartbeat crescendo until he blurts out a confession. Poe cunningly crafts the narrator’s delusions to match the heightened anxiety he hopes the reader will feel. The sound of the heart beating is further emphasized by Poe’s use of simple sentences in an effort to incite suspense and emphasize the sound of a heart beating. In conclusion, Poe includes the symbol of the beating heart to help create suspense through a warped narrator.