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Imagery is the use of language that appeals to the five common senses which include: - sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing. It is used to enhance the bond between the reader and the plot of the story. In “The tell-tale heart”, the author, Edgar Allan Poe, has used imagery effectively to express his intended message. The short story follows a narrator who remains unnamed. The narrator insists that he is sane after murdering an old, vulture-eyed man. The murder is well crafted and the murderer hides the body under the floor boards after dismembering it. Eventually, the narrator’s guilt gets the better of him as hallucination makes him to think that the man’s heart was resiliently beating under the floor boards. The relationship between the two characters is unclear but, what stands out is the father figure character attributed to the dead man. The ambiguity that envelopes the two characters stand starkly in contrast with the highly detailed plot leading to the murder. Eventually, guilt forces the narrator to turn himself in (Symons Julian, 86).
The old man’s eye is blue and something like a film is covering it. This might be a medical condition like, corneal ulcer. Symbolically, it means that the characters might be having problems with their inner vision hence, marring their overall outlook of the world. From the eye, a series of imageries can be drawn, though, through the eye, the reader struggles through a somewhat hazy text, which brings out a tinge of confusion. The eye seems dull but it has some strange power that makes the narrator’s blood to run cold to the marrow (Dunn Joeming 14). This brings an imagery of fear and shows the levels of authority wielded by the old man.
After the murder, the narrator hides the body in a manner that no human eye, including this old mans’, can notice it under the boards. This implies that the eye could at times see hidden, secretive things. It also makes the reader to understand the pains that the narrator underwent to conceal the dead body. We normally attribute the spirits of dead people to be all seeing but, by concealing the body in a manner that even the eye of the dead man would not find, it shows how carefully the body was hidden. The vulture eye is brought out three times by the narrator. Vultures are known to prey on the sick and dying and so, it inevitably means that the narrator might be on his way to death.
The word “watch” is mentioned four times in the story. It is a visual auditory representation of time. The “watch” is inspecting time and tells the tale of time. Time on the other hand, is seen to be watching death in a distance. With each tick of the second hand, human beings draw closer to their ultimate end, which is brought by death. Poe brings this out subtly when he shows that the narrator’s hands moved at a slower pace than the hands of the watch. This is a prudent use of imagery as it shows that time is no respecter of persons (Cheng Shirley 186). It outlines that however much one tries to beat the hands of time; it is always bound to have an upper hand.
The narrator also draws a comparison between him and the watch. Through imagery, he deems himself as a watch that is watching the old man’s death. Through this, he seems to steal the power of time as an agent of death. The narrator completely controls the time of the old man’s period of death and he can rightly be seen as a living “death watch”. The idea of time becomes more explicit when the narrator hearkens to the death watches in the wall. This is an intriguing line since it makes one become aware that death watches are a type of beetle, which live in walls and bang their heads on the same wall to attract mates. It is probable that Poe was unfamiliar with the mating antics of the insect and was a follower of the popular belief that it signified the countdown to someone’s death. There is a Sigmund Freudian feel as the book juxtaposes sex and death. The subsequent mention of ‘watch’ is where there is a sound compared to the one ensuing after a watch is enveloped by cotton. The old man’s heart is also comparable to a watch as it watches while counting down the time to its owner’s death. However, it is mystifying that the heart succeeds in resurrecting itself such that it can tell the time of death. This in essence, takes time back from the narrator, which is a very clever move by the author.
The lantern in the story is amazing and very interesting. Either oil or candles can be burnt in it but there are panels and hinges that can be regulated to let in as much light as needed. The narrator hides most of the light allowing only a ray to escape. This lantern is seen as the weapon of choice used by the narrator against the old man’s eye. This paints a picture to the observant that there can be light in the darkest of places and we can be in a position to see it if we can figure out how to open our lanterns. It makes the reader conceptualize the amount of darkness that the narrator is in.
In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the bed is an antonym of what beds and bedrooms are supposed to be. Through exploiting the vulnerability of the sleeping old man, the narrator succeeds in violating all manner of bedroom etiquette. A bed is supposed to be one’s haven of safety and this is in sharp contradiction to what ensues. The narrator uses it as a weapon to murder the old man and it is quite illogical that the bedroom turns into a burial place. Imagery in this case, is used to show how dangerous something we take for granted and put our faith in, can be. The bed makes the reader to feel the amount of peace and safety that the old man was feeling in the confines of his bed. This also succeeds in showing the helpless position of the old man (Cheng Shirley, 186).
The old man’s room was with thick darkness and black as pitch. These descriptive words make the reader to have an imagination of death and malevolence. It keeps the reader’s heart racing as it signals the dawn of something bad and sinister. The narrator then opens the door steadily and stealthily. Repetition of the word gives the reader a real presence in the plot and the descriptive words show how well authored the murder plan was (Edgar Allan Poe 156). The repetition also shows that the narrator is undetectable in the room and the old man might be killed without his knowledge. The darkness shows the inevitability of the old man’s death.
This is made even clearer when the narrator opens the door stealthily and a single dim ray, similar to the thread of a spider’s web, shoots from the crevice and onto the vulture eye. By using the word ‘shot’, which can also mean to kill and the word spider which signifies something scary, the reader almost gasps as the vividness in the story is brought to optimum levels. The utilization of this technique has brought out the whole story with a lot of intrigues that the author intended to make the audience get. The employment of critical viewing of the plot is essential in comprehending the intention and the message the author intended to pass to his audience.