Most readers identify Edgar Allen Poe by his famous poem “the Raven”; others do by his horror short story “The Tell-Tale Heart”. They both contains suspenseful mood. “The Raven” is a ballad, ora poem that tells story, and is about a man who lost his lover. He is taunted and tortured by a raven which he imagines as a godsend to relieve him from his grief. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a similar suspense story, telling a man who believes he is not a madman, while he is planning to kill an old man because he dislikes his eyes. The killer later confesses because the rings of his own guilt. Both his writings are written in the same techniques of setting, symbolism, and personalities of the narrators to create the mood for horrifying suspense stories.
Setting plays an important role in both “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” to create the mood of horror. In “The Raven,” the narrator is sitting lonely at midnight, on a “bleak December.” It is a cold, late and he is feeling “weak and weary.” He is grieving the death of his lover, Lenore. He starts to dose off by a dying fire with its flickering shadow as a “ghost upon the floor.” Then a tapping at the door wakes him up. He gets scared but tries to calm himself by saying it is just some visitor. But when he opens the door, he only faces the darkness and he hears the echo of his own word “Lenore”. The door is used in the poem to mark the plots in sequences. The tap at the door, the Raven perches on a statue above the door, where the narrator sits in front of to talk to the bird. At last, when he asks the Raven to get out, he falls down at the door. The setting of “The Tell-tale Heart” is pretty similar, with the murder happens on the eighth night, the night after seven long nights in which the old man’s “Evil Eye” has haunted the narrator. He spent eight nights at the door, sticks his head in to wait for the right time to commit the crime. Compare to “The Raven”, the door in “The Tell-Tale Heart” is referred only before the climax. The story also takes place also at midnight, in the old man’s bedroom, which is “as black as pitch with thick darkness.” The darkness, just like other Poe’s work, is one of the characteristics to show the black side and gloom of the stories to stimulate the readers imagination, and to develop a terrifying mood. The sounds of the settings also take parts in both stories.
The sound in “The Raven” is pretty quiet to compare with “The Tell-Tale Heart”, but it shows successfully the loneliness and despair of the narrator after he loses his love. The “silence [which is] unbroken” only is stired up when he talks. Contrarily, “The tell-Tale Heart” in the beginning has barely any noise, the plots then scare the readers with all sounds of the scream and the heart-pounding tale of a late, empty, and deserted night. Poe uses of short sentences or word groups in the last two paragraphs to develop in the readers’ mind the rhythm of the heart. It is getting “louder-louder-[and] Iouder!” till the narrator cannot tolerate the thumping and confesses to the deed. The readers hear the heart beat within their own heads and feel frightened as much as him. In addition, Poe uses the personification such as the “dying ember wrought it ghost upon the floor”, the curtain that can rustle in “The Raven,” or the Evil Eye that “fell upon” the narrator and the “Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim” in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” to draw the eerie of very dark nights, when things around can move spookily. All of the above create a hair-rising scene and heighten the effect of terror in the stories.
Along with the setting, symbolisms and supernatural are used to help develop the horror in the writings. In the poem, the Raven is a great choice to represent the darkness, sorTOW, and death. He wonders where the bird comes from, and considers it as a prophet and a demon. The Raven’s only answer “Nevemore” somehow goes with every questions the narrator has, and the repetition tortures him. The bird’s shadow then traps his soul with hopelessness. Here the talking bird is supernatural with its powerful appeal that drives the narrator insane. Beside the Raven, “the Night’s Plutonian Shore” is another symbol that represents a spooky night ith scary power of nature, a night as an ocean full of darkness. The narrator is having a long, mysterious night with his depressions. In “The Tell-tale Heart”, the old man’s blue eye with a veil like a vulture’s eye is an important symbol that builds up the suspense of the story. Because the narrator thinks the eye puts a curse on him, it scares him, makes his blood run cold, and he feels like a “terrified creature”. Vultures prey on the dead, so the eye can prey the weakness in him. When the eye “sees” the danger, it causes the heart to beat. After kill the old man, the heart beats that he believes from the old man’s chest, makes him admit the crime. The heart beat symbolizes his own conscience which urges him to carry out his dastardly deed. This is also Poe’s use of supernatural to explain the narrator’s paranoid. In short words, symbols are well used in both stories to spine-chilling and sinister feelings for the readers.
Horror stories always go with actions, and the personalities of the narrators are the major characteristics to control their actions and take the stories to the climax. In the Raven, the character is very “weak and weary” and in mournful mood. He feels lonely, hopel ess. Everything has left him, just like the bird will leave him tomorrow. When he get the message from the Raven that if he does not forget Lenore and move on, he will never have any hope and peace. The climax starts out when he smells scent from “unseen censer”, swung by “angels” to help him get over his sorow. Now he is in paranoid. Then he figures that the Raven just as “thing of devil” and ask it to leave. The Raven, though, has the same answer “Nevermore,” and the narrator loses his sanity. In “The Tell-tale Heart,” on the other hand, the narrator is severely damaged, “very dreadfully nervous”, and mentally ill. While he talks consciously and confirms that he is not insane, his actions throughout the story prove that he has bizarre behavior and speech. The first line of the story “True-nervous-very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?” helps the readers realize the narrator in madness stage.
He is an insane man with a conscious act. He plans the murder with cautious. He loves the old man, but to get rid of the old man’s “vulture eye,” he has to kill the old man. He stands at the door for seven nights; his insanity grows more before the murder takes place. He is too dangerous that three policemen search his house and do not find anything. Just right after they leave, when the thumping heart panics him, the story tums point- he confesses. The narrators carry specific personalities that drive their acts to create the creepy mood of Poe’s writings. Edgar Allan Poe is an unsurpassed writer of the horror stories. He uses such devices as genre, structure of the plot, type and structure of narration, vivid imagery, settings, color, and light to create terror and horror in his stories. With the contribution he made into the development of the horror genre, it is no doubt that Edgar Allan Poe deserves to be one of the most original, effective, and unsurpassed master in American literature.