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Compare the two nineteenth century horror stories ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Tell-tale heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe, showing how Poe uses a range of techniques to make his stories dramatic and effective.
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author who wrote ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Tell-tale Heart’. ‘The Black Cat’ written in 1845 depicts a supposedly animal loving man who becomes addicted to alcohol which eventually gets out of control and he ends up killing his cat and wife. ‘The Tell-tale Heart’ was written in 1950 after Poe’s wife’s death in 1847, portrays a madman who becomes paranoid about an old mans vulture like eye and similarly to ‘The Black Cat’ he kills the old man.
In both stories Poe uses a variety of techniques to convey his dramatic version of the gothic horror genre. He uses repetition through the rule of three, punctuation and simple sentences, settings and pathetic fallacy, the main homodiegetic narrator and innocent side characters as well as some significant supernatural events.
These all help achieve the effective, dramatic gothic horror story.
Another technique used by Poe is repetition including the use of the rule of 3. In ‘the tell tale heart’ the pace of the story quickens when Poe used the repetition in the rule of three. ‘Louder! Louder! Louder!’ this is said repeatedly at the end to insinuate the narrators panic and quickening velocity. This technique also works with the slow build of tension at the beginning of the story and the haste filled confession at the end.
In an early paragraph the narrator describes himself to possess ‘sagacity’ and throughout the story he praises his actions and reassures himself and the reader, ‘how calmly I can tell you the whole story’ but towards the end he begins to lose control over his ‘calmness’ and starts shouting (showing signs of madness). In ‘the black cat’ Poe uses repetition in anaphora sentences ‘I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse’ this gives a different thrilling and effective use of the narrators need to reiterate his emotions in an order, I think this can be linked to my previous mention of his possible OCD.
Another technique Poe uses to make his stories dramatic and effective is the setting and pathetic fallacy. In the ‘Black Cat’ Poe sets the beginning of the story as bright and sunny to portray a much happier, normal life and during the darkening times, the weather changes to dark, dangerous ad sombre. ‘One night, returning home, much intoxicated,’ this supports the idea that Poe has used weather set the tone of the scene. During the deaths in the ‘Black Cat’ the setting appears quite gloomy and dark like when the wife is killed in the cellar. In the ‘Tell tale heart’ the narrator says that ‘Every day at midnight’ which helps develop the idea that the time of day i.e. very dark, cooler which could affect the response from the reader.
Poe also takes the setting (inside the old mans bedroom) as a tool to create that odd difference with the mad narrator and his fairly normal life. The way in which Poe takes the bedroom which is where people would often feel safe and uses it as the base for the murder should evoke an emotional response of unease from the reader. He has managed to turn a safe place into a sinister and dangerous place. This makes his stories dramatic and effective by exploring different aspects of normal every days lives and making them creepy and weird. This fits in with the Gothic genre by invoking terror and featuring terrifying experiences in a place where the reader should feel safe.
Overall Poe uses a variety of techniques to create an effective and dramatic story which can make the reader feel un-easy. His use of the narrator, other characters, punctuation, repetition and the setting fulfil all the elements to create a dramatic and effective gothic horror story.
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