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Romanticism was an artistic movement created in the 18th century in which writers were encouraged to adulate emotion, imagination, free thinking, the supernatural, mystery, optimism, and love. This period produced the most impeccable place for author, Edgar Allen Poe. Poe constructs a chilling and sinister tone through his writing to generate suspense and frighten the reader. He desired to make the reader feel uneasy and fearful from deep within. Poe stood out among other Romantic authors in terms of occult writing styles as he undeniably took the spotlight for blood-curdling and eerie writing. He was a unique individual as well as hugely influential in not only the Romantic era but also in the literary world. Poe’s writing conveys the darker side of Romanticism as he addresses the concepts of death, the supernatural, loss of love, and mysterious evil, along with a major emphasis on individualism and intense passion.

Passion, by definition, is a ‘strong and barely controllable emotion’, and it is an overarching trait of Romanticism as well as dominantly exhibited in Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”. In this short story, an unnamed narrator has a deep, intense hatred for this elderly man’s eye. This emotion is indeed uncontrollable as he murders said man in the dead of night solely because of his eye. Poe provides no real reason as to why the main character detests his eye so much other than the fact that “his eye was like the eye of a vulture” and then goes on to say that his eye is like “…one of those terrible birds that watch and wait while an animal dies, and then fall upon the

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dead body and pull it to pieces to eat it.” (Poe, “Tell-Tale” 64). The narrator associated this old man with death. He also refers to the eye as an “Evil Eye”. He has such a deep hatred for this eye that he cannot bear to look at it, and he feels threatened by it beyond belief. This explains why the only way the narrator could kill this man, was when he was sleeping, when the eye wasn’t looking at him, when it held no threat. However, after he killed him, he felt an immeasurable amount of guilt. It can be interpreted that Poe justifies the killing as an extreme level of unconscious self-defense. The narrator felt exceedingly threatened by the eye that he felt the only way he could survive was by killing the man. No matter the case, the man had a wave of emotions. The emotions of hatred and guilt overcame this man and fueled his moments of weakness of killing the man and then confessing.

Individualism, a Romantic trait like no other, is exactly what “The Tell-Tale Heart” portrays. Much like many of Poe’s pieces, the main character is stuck in their thoughts, and it holds no exception with this story. Here he wrote in the first person, with tons of I’s and me’s, taking you through how he felt, what he thought, what he did. It was completely individualistic, the main character acted completely and utterly alone. He candidly did what he thought was best for himself and his gain. He killed that man so he wouldn’t have to look at his eye anymore. Surely, readers will think that it’s safe to assume that this man is insane, but Poe writes, “Can you not see that I have full control of my mind? Is it not clear that I am not mad?” (Poe, “Tell-Tale” 64). The narrator claims he’s not insane for he truly believes what he did was just, that he simply did what he had to do. He carefully executed the murder alone and then proceeded to hack up this man’s body and place it under the floorboards. In doing that, he took in no account for this man’s family or friends, he didn’t care about them. He didn’t give a single thought to their needs because he did what he did for himself and himself only.

There is no lack of gore, eeriness, or mystery in any of Poe’s writing and that includes this short story too. Romanticism was a time when writing about the supernatural and spooky things was encouraged. It wasn’t looked down upon with people thinking you were the Devil. Poe took full advantage of this and as a matter of fact, he was known as “The Master of the Macabre”. “The Tell-Tale Heart” keeps the reader on the edge of their seat and sends a chill down the reader’s spine. The reader begins to get a sense of fear while approaching the climax of this story. When the man entered the older man’s house on the night of the murder, the narrator goes on to say that “the blood in my body became like ice.” (Poe, “Tell-Tale” 66) The narrator claims that for an hour, he stood there silently in the thick darkness while the old man sat up in his bed, trembling in fear. Then, however, he refers to himself as “Death” when the old man “now knew that Death was standing there.” (Poe, “Tell-Tale” 65) Poe builds up the murder greatly by saying the sound of his heartbeat grew louder, fear crept in faster, crying became ear-piercing; everything heightened right until the death. Then, when the old man’s death came, the moment he was gone, the eeriness of silence slithered in instead.  

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