Simple words can create very elaborate feelings or emotions. This idea is reflected in the short horror story “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe where the narrator has been pointing a light at an old man’s eye for the last 7 nights because he believes that is is cursed and can cause harm and or bad luck. The narrator kills the old man on the eighth night and hides him under the floor planks. The police come to question him after his neighbor reports a scream but find nothing until his guilt causes him to confess. Poe uses the literary devices metaphor and imagery to create suspense in the reader. Poe uses metaphors to create suspense. He uses a metaphor when saying “…he [the old man] had the eye of a vulture…” (625). This is the narrator’s description of the eye and the reason why he shined the light upon it at night. This description invokes suspense in the reader because the idea of a vulture is menacing and unpredictable.
The narrator thinks that “The minute hand of watch moves more quickly than did mine [second hand]” (626). In this part of the story the narrator feels very powerful as he opens the old man’s door for the eighth night. This gives the reader a sense of suspense because the slowness of time felt and created by the quote only increases the reader’s certainty that everything will go terribly wrong. Another literary device Poe uses to create suspense is imagery. The narrator describes the old man’s room as “…as black as pitch with the thick darkness…” (626). In this part of the story the narrator is looking into the old man’s room before turning on his light for the eighth time. This makes the reader want to know what will happen next because he is lost in the dark and is afraid of all the possible bad outcomes that could occur. The narrator tells the police “…it [the sound] is the beating of his [the old man’s] hideous heart” (630). He describes it to the police in this way when he confesses because he thinks that he hears the old man’s heart beating under the floorboards.
The reader feels suspense because he is very suprised by the confession and is afraid that the old man is still alive and will come out. In conclusion, the suspense felt by the reader throughout the story is caused by Poe’s large use of imagery and metaphors among others. Poe uses metaphors and imagery to describe objects and create suspense throughout the story using comparisons to horrible animals and using ominous words like hideous, and black as pitch. The few simple words used by Poe to describe objects and ideas throughout his story created great suspense and terror within the trembling reader.