Literary Devices in The Tell-Tale Heart
In 1836, Poe wrote an essay called “The Philosophy of Composition,” in which he proposed a theory about writing which claimed that a “unity of effect” distinguished something as good writing. The unity of effect claims that a work of fiction should elicit an emotional response from the reader that is meticulously orchestrated by the author. Writers therefore have to make specific choices about tone, word choice, theme, setting, conflict, and plot. Every element of a story was made to propel the story forwards. For this reason, the style, form, and tone are important literary devices in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The sentences are choppy and disjointed to show the narrator’s scattered mind; frequent repetition demonstrates his obsessive nature, and his tendency to interrupt himself mid-sentence shows his illogical thinking patterns. The story begins in medias res, in the middle of a narrative, with the narrator confessing his crimes to an unknown person, and by extension the reader. This device draws the reader into the text. We unwittingly become his confidant as the narrative forces us into the mind of a madman.