Wide reading assessment – The tell tale heart

“But why do you say I have lost control of my mind, why do you say that I am mad?Can you not see that I have full control of my mind?” The short story the Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe in 1843 shows us the element of the gothic protagonist in a gothic fiction piece.The short story is about a murder that the narrator has committed, he constantly is assuring us of his actions meanwhile Poe is trying to convince us of the narrator’s madness throughout the story.

Poe uses foreshadowing as a technique through the narrator.Early on in the book we can tell something negative is going to happen when the narrator says “I heard sounds from heaven; I heard sounds from hell”This tells us there is a dark side to him and that the narrator may end up doing something with the repercussions of hell.When I think of hell I think of someone committing a sin so that when they die they end up in hell, in the story this gave me the idea he was listening to the sounds from hell and was going to act on them.Poe uses this technique as one way to identify the narrator as the gothic protagonist.The narrator also says”there was no reason for what I did”This straight away foreshadows to the reader that he takes action on those voices from hell that he listens to.It also foreshadows to us that he does something inhumane because generally when you do something you can justify as to why you did, however, the narrator could not and then once again tried to convince us he wasn’t a madman.As the reader when the narrator committed the murder I was not surprised at all because of the use of foreshadowing I could tell that something bad was going to happen and when the old man was murdered I related it back to the references Poe foreshadowed earlier in the story.

Allan Poe also uses contrasting qualities to portray the narrator as a gothic protagonist by saying “thoughtless and mindful” when someone is thoughtless they do not process or think of repercussions of their actions, in the story, the character referred to himself as a madman which can explain why he doesn’t think he just does another example of his thoughtlessness is.However, he is also described as mind full contradicting the fact that he is thoughtless until the moment in the story where he kills the man because he sees the eye but afterwards he hides his traces so well.As a reader, we can relate to doing thoughtless things and straight after regretting our actions and thinking of a way to cover up. The narrator also says in the book” he loved the old man” yet he still commits this murder and completely mutilates his body to cover it up.The definition of love is to feel a deep affection towards someone or something, As a reader when someone says they love someone we generally would not associate it with a brutal murder which very much contradicts to love.

Another way Poe paints the narrator as the gothic protagonist is through the air of mystery surrounding him, we have no idea who this narrator is, where he comes from or how he knows this old man.They also continue to plea the case that they are not a madman causing us to wonder why we would think of the narrator as a madman.From the term madman, I automatically assumed the narrator would be a male.The use of the personal pronoun also comes up a lot through the story which does not help us identify the narrator as a male or female, even though I had already made the assumption that the narrator was a male I am still left unsure due to the lack of history I know.The narrator looked after the old man and back in the time period that Poe wrote this storey woman looked after the men.It is believed by readers that this story is a related to slavery in the south as it was coming to the end around 1843  and Poe lived in the south.I think the story the Tell Tale heart uses the air of mystery to let the reader make their own assumptions about the narrator because of the lack of information we are given, throughout the entire story my mind was chopping and changing about what gender I thought the narrator was and why I thought they committed the murder because I didn’t believe that an eye was a justifiable reason for murder I believed there was a backstory to this.

Poe uses the narrator of The Tell Tale Heart as a gothic protagonist in the story by using foreshadowing, contrasting qualities and by creating an air of mystery around them.A gothic protagonist can have many qualities but in this story I feel like Poe is using the qualities he has chosen to give us a base story with a few hints of the narrators feelings so that we can fill in the blanks as a reader and interperit the narrator as we like and chose whether we believe he is a madman or not.Personally i did not overly enjoy the short story, i felt confused a lot and struggled to connect all my feelings and the information together.However it hepled me to understand the use of a gothic protaginist in gothic fiction more.



One Comment

  1. Clover,

    Thank you for getting your response in on time to receive feedback.

    You have clearly defined and identified the elements of gothic fiction that your response will focus on. You have clear examples to support this.

    I would like to see your reaction to how and why the author uses these elements be developed more. Also look at the social context surrounding the novel and see if you can develop more discussion around this.

    Mrs. P


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