Why Did Edgar Allan Poe Write “The Tell-Tale Heart”?

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Edgar Allen Poe wrote “The Tell-Tale Heart” in order to demonstrate his theory of composition. This theory states that short stories should be relatable, controlled and compressed. According to Poe, short stories should be readable in a single sitting. Because of this, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is only 10 paragraphs long.

Poe packs the 10 paragraphs with much information, but the nature of that information helps to create an intriguing effect on the reader. Because the story gives no names or other specifics, the narrator and reader develop a kind of convenient intimacy in that Poe’s narrator is able to relate information he would not share with a friend.

Poe’s desire to shock readers with the information the narrator has is another reason the narrative is so short, as he felt that longer narratives minimized the shocking impact that the author had on the audience. A large part of that impact comes from the chief subject matters of murder and confession. Poe presents these deep topics to the reader in the form of fiction told by a nameless narrator in order to help the reader examine his own feelings regarding both of these topics. Poe also forces the reader to question the reliability of the narrator as the man tries to convince readers that he is not insane despite his murderous actions and the fact that he continues hearing the beating of the heart.