How is tension created in The tell tale hearts and The black cat?
In this essay I am going to study the short stories ‘the black cat’
and ‘the tell tale heart’ written by famous writer Edgar Allen Poe and
see how tension is created in the two tales.
Both tales are written in a gothic horror genre and Poe’s intention
for this was to chill and unsettle the reader, to make them anticipate
what was going to happen next, as if it was really happening. Poe
succeeds in doing this by the content of the tales, partly being the
supernatural and the tension he creates, which plays a major role in
both. He creates this tension by using several different techniques
including plot, characterisation and many stylistic devices.
One way that Poe creates tension is the plot of the story and where is
it set. ‘The tell tale heart’ is set in the middle of nowhere and late
at night, when it is dark outside. This automatically makes the reader
uneasy, as nighttime and darkness is symbolic of dark and bad deeds.
Poe mentions more than once that it is set ‘about midnight’ and that
it is dark, ‘black as pitch’, he keeps reminding the reader of this,
as he knows it is symbolic and the reader will be wary of this.
Criminals will often act upon this time, as they are more likely to
get away with the crime, as they cannot be seen as easily. People are
most wary of little things, sounds and sights like shadows in the dark
and will be on edge. Darkness and nighttime are famously scary and
unsafe, portrayed in novels and films as when everything bad happens
and now is the stereotypical view. The darkness seems like a
disability, vision is not fully available, and the brain starts so
wander as to if anything could be round the corner, lurking, waiting
because almost certainly people will feel that something bad is going
The stories are written in first person narrative, which makes the
reader feel as though they are in the story, involved personally, and
is made to feel what the narrator feels. From the very beginning of
the tales the reader gets an idea of what kind of stories they are
going to be and may feel uneasy as Poe makes it clear that the
narrator is mad. The narrator speaks informally and repeatedly says
things that make it obvious he is not sane. Firstly, they start by
telling you that they are not mad, no matter what we may think. In
‘The tell tale heart’ Poe writes ‘You fancy me mad. Madmen know
nothing’ and in ‘The black cat’, ‘Mad indeed would I be to expect it…’
‘Yet mad I am not’ this is affective, as it seems as though the
narrator doesn’t quite believe it himself, and is trying to convince
himself that he is not mad, and will put the reader on edge as they
don’t know what to expect from this kind of character.
Also, in ‘The black cat’ it says ‘yes, even in this felon’s cell’
which means that he is in jail, awaiting trial and prosecution. This
will reinforce the reader’s doubts about the man as it...