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Mindstyle refers to the term coined by Roger Fowler, in 1977, which referred to any distinctive linguistic representation of an individual mental self, whether of a character, narrator, or implied author. The impression of a mindstyle is usually cumulatively conveyed through consistent linguistic choices which together cut the narrated world to a distinctive cognitive pattern. To first discuss the particular mind style of Edgar Allan Poe it is vital to understand the concept of mind style and the different types of techniques and uses of language that create his character. It is also vital to read into the language choices that lead to a particular point of view; This is created by a range of Linguistic techniques such as Modality, grammatical agency, transitive and intransitive verbs, and lexical fields.

It is clear through the excerpt that the protagonist of Poe’s Tell Tale Heart is going slowly mad and insane over the eye of an old man. Poe is well known for his use of gothic imagery and symbolism, it is this symbolism that the reader is exposed to, that contributes to the disorder of the protagonist. For example parenthesis; which is the use of words in a text to elaborate a point. Is prevalent in the Tell-Tale Heart ‘I undid the lantern-oh, so cautiously – cautiously (for the hinges creaked) -I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye.’. Here, Poe is using parentheses to explain the narrator’s reason for using the lantern so cautiously. The symbolism of the light held by the murder while the innocent are left in the dark unaware of the pain and torment that this protagonist is about to cause. It is also important to refer to the constant use of rhetorical questions to demonstrate the inability of the protagonist to stay sane and so that the reader can conclude the questions being asked such conclusions the protagonist’s sanity is slipping and he is slowly dropping into insanity if he is not already there: ‘but why will you say that I am mad?’ While demonstrating the losing grasp this man seems to have on his mind Poe also chooses to break the fourth wall and have the protagonist directly talk to the reader. In two ways this adds to the insanity of the piece and the insanity of the protagonist, the first way is the deviation of the familiar which in turn makes the reader imagine a different scenario than another reader may.

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The second is the signs of broken language and the constant inconsistency with the speed of the character’s monologue: ‘I proceeded –with what caution –with what foresight –with what dissimulation I went to work!’. It is important to note that the extract starts in media res, dropping the reader straight into uneasiness with an unreliable narrator who uses this language to promote uneasiness and show the instability of the man’s mind, the insanity that a blue eye described as that of a vulture to increase feelings of spite and sickness that is prevalent in the passage. The mind style from the start of the extract seems to express the slow deterioration into madness or derangement that the character seamlessly has happened to him.

Continuing from this it is important to look at the lexical field that the whole extract encompasses that can help the understanding of the mind style that is created by Poe. There are lexical fields in the extract, but not all the lexical fields are accounted for in this essay, which proves the mental deterioration that has been occurring from the start of the piece. There is also the constant jumbling use of transitive and intransitive verbs that both stop and start the piece giving it a fragmented style, as if referencing or denoting the change from a full whole mind to one that is fractured and slipping away to madness. As the piece continues the uses of transitive and intransitive verbs become more frequent and more inconsistent which can be seen as a linguistic representation of the state of mind of the narrator. It is also very important to note the modality that is present in the exert given. It is clear from the modality that the death of the Old man is a certainty just as a certainty that the protagonist refuses his madness. Everything that the protagonist does and speaks about is firmly planted into a high modality that eliminates uncertainty. The only time the protagonist breaks from having high modality is when he is asking rhetorical questions of his sanity, and then quickly cements that he is not going crazy. The grammatical agency does denote a speech of a man who is unstable and cannot focus on anything bar this ‘vulture’ eye which is driving him insane day after day as he looks after the Old man: ‘When the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.’. The Old Man is the agent in the whole passage the protagonist is unable to move his mind away from him. Poe gives an insight into the mid-style of the protagonist.

The extract as a whole seems to be showing the inside of the protagonist’s mind. However, it is consumed by hatred or fear or even the protagonist has been driven mad by the vulture eye he has to stare into day after day. When the narrator describes the eye he states: ‘He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees –very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.’. It is clear that The driving force behind this insanity is the emotion and hatred that this man feels for this eye; When the eye is described to have a film over it, which makes ‘blood …[run]… cold’ whenever it is stared at.

This eye can be seen as a force of evil or even as a break in the man’s psyche, as eye and I sound similar, this break could mean that there is no other old man and he is the old man. Seeing himself and his body once it has left him alone in his house, both men present are a part of the same whole. This can be reinforced by the language used when the Old Man hears the other man come into the room at night and instead of waking and seeing who it is the Old Man pretends it is nothing and is trying to stop the deterioration that is seemingly happening to him: ‘His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself –‘ It is nothing but the wind in the chimney –it is only a mouse crossing the floor,’ or ‘It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.’ Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain.’. The dialogue that is present shows that the Old man had no caution to be afraid even though he was supposed to be living with someone the denial of anyone in the room, of the old man, creates a supernatural presence that this protagonist is maybe not of this world, or is trying to creep into the head of the Old Man as he sleeps, trying to corrupt, disorder or to derange.

Poe in his short story has extensively used language and rhetorical devices to show the mind style of the Protagonist: to which the reader is left with the broken fragmented mind of the man and the insanity, guilt, obsession, and tension that is wrapped in this mind. Poe uses powerful gothic imagery through the use of such devices as lexical fields which only represent the world through the view of the madman, who has a very limited and dark outlook on life. In conclusion, it is clear to see that Edgar Allen Poe uses language to create an atmosphere that is uncomfortable and dark for the reader to defamiliarize the reader with reality, Russian formalists would say that this is the true meaning of why this piece is a great work of literature. That being said this is not a great work of art because of the language that is used by Edgar Allen Poe: it is everything that created his ‘mind-style’ that also needs to be accounted for. Literature can be seen as the representation of life in art or it can be seen as the defamiliarization of reality, but what makes a work of art is up to the individual that reads or possesses to create value for the object for it is not something that should be profited off under capitalism.

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