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“The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe and “Confessions found In a Prison” by Charles Dicken Essay

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My essay will consist of the themes of the two short stories and background information on the authors who were living at the Victorian time, now seen as classical writers.

Edgar Allen Poe was born January 19th 1809 in Boston. He was an American short story writer, poet, critic, and editor. He is famous in all of these traits for his cultivation of mystery and macabre writing. The atmosphere is his tales of horror is unrivalled in American fiction. After his mother died in Richmond, in 1811, he was taken into the home of John Allan, a Richmond merchant (presumably his godfather), and his childless wife.

He was later taken to Scotland and England (1815-20), where he was given a classical education that was continued in Richmond. His gambling losses at the university incensed his guardian that he refused to let him continue, and Poe returned to Richmond to find his sweetheart, (Sarah) Elmira Royster, engaged.

Poe made a name as a critical reviewer and married his young cousin Virginia Clemm, who was only 13.

Poe seems to have been an affectionate husband and son-in-law. Poe was dismissed from his job in Richmond, apparently for drinking, and went to New York City. Drinking was in fact to be the bane of his life. To talk well in large company he needed a slight stimulant, but a glass of sherry might start him on a spree; and, although he rarely succumbed to intoxication, he was often seen in public when he did. This gave rise to the conjecture that he was a drug addict, but according to medical testimony he had a brain lesion. His wife Virginia died in 1847.

Charles Dickens is generally considered as one of the greatest writers of the Victorian Era. His work is characterised by attacks on the social evils, injustices and hypocrisy. In his early teen years he was forced to end school and work in the factory. Dickens characters such as Scrooge, David Copperfield and Mr Pickwick have fascinated generations of readers. The author was born in Hampshire during the industrial age’ his father was a well-paid clerk but often ended up in financial problems. Dickens wrote for several newspapers. In 1836 he married Catherine Hogart. They had 10 children.

Both short stories contain the theme of GOTHIC LITERATURE. The Goths were said, by history, to be barbarians who destroyed the classical Roman civilisation and plunged the civilised world into the centuries of ignorance called the Dark Ages. Hence the word Goth originally came from the name of the German tribe at odds with the Roman Empire, later a generic term for all German tribes- came to stand for ‘Barbarous’; and later, what was said to be barbarous, came to be known as gothic. The term gothic also came to represent the medieval culture of the long years of the Dark Ages.

In Edgar Allan Poe’s story – ‘The Tell Tale Heart,’ the narrator cannot see that she/he is crazy and rather maniacally tries to convince that she/he is not. “You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. You should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded.” He gleefully recounts the skilled way he kills an old man and buries him under the floorboards. When two policemen came to the residence to investigate, the narrator believes that he can hear the old mans heart still beating, and it drives the narrator to confess the crime: – “Villains! (Narrator shrieked), dissemble no more! -Here, here! It is the beating of the hideous heart.

Both authors have one obvious thing in common they are both male writers. They were very popular in their short story writing and became very famous. The two stories have the narrator as the insane murderers. Those killers talk in great detail about why, how, when and where they committed their evil actions. In both stories the victims were vulnerable. A young child was atrociously killed in “Confessions found In a Prison” and a powerless old man was killed fiercely in “The Tell Tale Heart”. Both victims were vulnerable because of their age.

The murder plots were both designed intelligently methodically thought out what was being undertaken in days or week’s before the episode occurred. Both authors added a great twist in the end and left the readers stunned. The police officers in “The Tell Tale Heart” were shocked by the killers’ confession while viewing where the body was hidden; he was revealing his madness in a dramatic breakdown. The army officers in “Confessions in a Prison” found out where the decaying body of the child lay simply by observing the unknown crime scene.

Last of all, both murderers confessed to their compulsive, inhumane actions and paid for taking the life of an innocent person. The killers in both stories believably insane in the way they had the most ridiculous reasons to take another human life but they still had killer’s motives.

There are many differences that make the both stories unique, such as the murderers

Motives to kill. In “The Tell Tale Heart” the killer was haunted by “the evil eye of vulture”, although he still liked the man he had to get rid of the eye. In “Confessions Found In a Prison” the motives were all about greed because the killer’s wife loved his nephew as her own child and was haunted by the child’s face and eyes, which reminded him of his mother, who he believed didn’t like him very much.

The two victims who were killed had a major contrast in age, old verses young. I think I felt more sympathy for the child being killed rather than the old man because the young child had his whole life ahead to see and experience the world, compared to the old man who had already lived his life. I also think the killing of a child was more horrific in the “Confessions found In a Prison” compared to the aged man in “The Tell Tale Heart.” The helpless young child was innocent, little and fragile who even attempted to escape outside in the garden by himself. The poor child didn’t have the best of childhood. Both his parents had died, and he had been put into the care of his uncle.

The murder in “The Tell Tale Heart” was left unidentified as to whether it was a male or a female. There were no clues or hints referring to his or her sex, which gives the story more suspense and more mystery. As a reader I felt the narrator could only have been a man due to the horrific style of the murder. I understand that these extreme actions could have been committed by a woman, but I believe it is more likely to be a man.

The assassin in the story “Confession found In a Prison” had a blood relationship with his victim. The killer was an uncle of the child who was his BLOOD nephew. The murderer in the story of the “The Tell Tale Heart” was a neighbour to the old man who we didn’t really know anything about. “The Tell Tale Heart” takes place in the region of 7-8 days mainly during the hours of darkness at the residence of the old man.

The motives of the two murderers were different and similar in particular ways. In “The Tell Tale Heart” the assassin was disturbed by the evil eyes of the old man that was an image of a vulture. In “Confessions found In a Prison” the murderer was greedy and jealous because his wife seemed to love his nephew as her own child, the memory of his brother’s wife’s eyes lived in the little boy’s eye in particular, which he inherited.

I think there is a lot of evidence as to why the murderer was completely mad in “The Tell Tale Heart” The narrator was simply trying so hard to convince the reader that he/she was not mad, for example “but why will you say that I am mad” or the line “would a mad man have been so wise as this?” this clearly shows that the narrator is trying to convince the reader of his sanity. The repetitiveness and the use of phrases of how a mad man should be keeps relating to themes of madness. The narrator also uses speech, involving the readers by asking questions, e.g. “Would a mad man have been so wise as this?”

The killer says in the first paragraph that he/she loved the old man. The killer didn’t have any grudges against him, and he had never wronged the narrator. The only thing that came in the way of all of these opinions was that the narrator was haunted by the old man’s eye. Such stupid, mad and negative thoughts took the life of an innocent man. The killer in “Confessions Found In a Prison” was a blood relative of the victim, the uncle of the child. The killer didn’t really think twice about his relationship towards the boy and about the deep, deep consequences.

Both murderers had plainly confessed to their repulsive deeds at the end of the short stories. Both confessed dramatically. Both murderers sat on top of their victims lifeless corpses just before they were found out. In “The Tell Tale Heart” the narrator was sitting on top of the floorboards just above where the body had been placed. In “Confessions found in a Prison” the murderer sat outside in his own garden with his own officers sitting on the soil that his nephew lay beneath. Both killers ended at the site of the manic crimes.

In “Confessions Found In A Prison” when the narrator did not move his chair or himself, the army officers guessed that he was hiding something. Both narrators have probably flashes in their mind of what they did and what their consequences were going to be if they got caught for murdering an innocent and helpless. For example in “Confessions Found In A Prison” although the narrator his all the evidence and covered up the crime scene, he lived in fear of being found out that he killed his own nephew. He suffers terrible nightmares and needs to keep a constant watch over his nephew’s early grave.

Both authors are sending significant messages in their short stories, who ever takes a wrong turning life or has done something very wrong against the law will be caught and punished to pay in debt for their crime. If you murder, later your actions turn into regrets and pure nightmares, it drives you insane because you can’t simply cope with a guilty conscious.

The authors try to convey to their readers that by taking a life of a human, the punishment given to the killer will never be enough to pay for the death of an innocent person who will never get another chance to live in this world. I believe the authors are disapproving of MURDER, in the way they ended their short stories with both killers getting caught and arrested for operating a murder offence.

Edgar Allen Poe uses noise to create atmosphere in the short story and to build up suspense, for example, the “hinges creaked”. The reader instantly wants to discover who is behind the door. This creates more suspense and mystery with the intension of making the readers more engaged, and wanting to read further, and it leaves the reader clinging to the edge of their seats. “The Tell Tale Heart” is very quiet, calm and peaceful, until the twist at the end of the story, when death was inflicted upon the victim. A silence is always followed by action; again the reader is kept entertained, interested and literally addicted to the suspense and the build up of the tension.

Edgar Allan Poe also mentions time in “The Tell Tale Heart”. It helps many writers in building suspense and creating atmosphere based of the theme of the story. Time makes the story more interesting and gives a sense of repetition if certain words involving time are used atmosphere, suspense and tension are built. For example, “For the whole hour I didn’t move a muscle” this portrays how slowly the time passed. “For a minute, the heart went on with a muffled sound”. The writer here engages his readers by making TIME a way of creating more atmosphere and tension the short story.

Out of the two murderers I really do not think either of them deserved any sympathy, seeing as their reasons for murder were both so meaningless. I feel a tiny bit of pity for the murderer in “Confessions found in a Prison” because he had had the hatred growing inside him for a long time, waiting to explode. From an early age he seemed to resent his brother and this hatred was later transferred to his innocent nephew.

The killer in “Confessions found in a Prison” wasn’t completely mad at the beginning of the story, but became so when the nephew took a role as part of his everyday life, his madness simply stretched from the point when the child was put under his care, the memory of the child’s parents was there to remind him everyday of his past hatred and jealousy.

The murderer in “The Tell Tale Heart” didn’t appear to have a particular link with the victim, as we know it. The victim did him no wrong. I believe the narrator was mad, and beyond any sense of logical thought. I think he was in need of great medical help from the beginning of the story.

I favoured “The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe rather than the short story “Confessions found in a Prison” by Charles Dickens, even though both stories stunned me completely. The author Edgar Allan Poe writes in such anger and irritation about the ‘evil eye’, which was compared to a vulture’s eye. The account of the heart of the old man drumming in the killers mind, driving him to breakdown, gives the reader a shaky feeling while imagining the event.

I think the repetition of words helped build up the suspense and tension, this also guides the reader to read further into the passage. The word “mad” appears in “The Tell Tale Heart” many times referring to the narrators insanity, this implies to the reader that the narrator is crazy, as he/she brings up this subject on many occasions and obsessively denying their own accusations, e.g. “I am not mad.” There are many short sentences, usually a device to build up atmosphere and suspense. Edgar Allan Poe writes in such detail about each topic, for example the “Evil Eye”, we as readers could feel the hate growing inside the narrator, which became very realistic.

The twist at the end of this story fascinated me, and gave effectiveness to the whole story. It was intelligently written. The ending wasn’t obvious, and kept you guessing to the very end. I didn’t expect the killer in “The Tell Tale Heart” to rip up the floor boards because of all of the hard work and preparation that the killer went through to cover up the crime scene.

I took a great interest In the way the narrator was portrayed at the end, when the police inspectors arrived. The killer put on an innocent and relaxed facial expression, just in-case suspicion occurred with the officers. His or her voice tones were transformed into calm, relaxing tones, and the body language is conveyed greatly by the description from the author. The body language was altered depending on the situation to avoid suspicion. The reaction at the end was unexpected, but I could sense a twist building up in the writing. The coincidental visit from the police, and the dramatic confession of the killer was very amusing for me to read.

In conclusion, Although I believe that neither of the murderers deserve sympathy, I feel remote pity for both murderers, in the fact that they were mentally unstable, and the knowledge of their crime tore at them until it drove them to confess all. I believe that this does equate for a slight sympathetic vote to go to the killer who showed the most emotion, and regret. I therefore would say I felt the most sympathy for the killer in “The Tell Tale Heart”.

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“The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe and “Confessions found In a Prison” by Charles Dicken. (2017, Oct 15). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-tell-tale-heart-by-edgar-allen-poe-and-confessions-found-in-a-prison-by-charles-dicken-essay

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