The Tell Tale Heart Syntax Analysis

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In The Tell-tale Heart, author Edgar Allan Poe uses syntax to indicate the mental state of the speaker. The story consists of a narrator recounting a premeditated murder he committed. Throughout the passage, the narrator attempts to prove to the reader that he is sane. Poe’s usage of syntax suggests otherwise. He includes short, choppy sentences, emotive punctuation, and repetition to imply that the narrator is frantic and unwell. This gives the reader the impression that the story is in the hands of an unreliable narrator.
The first few lines of the passage immediately expose the reader to the narrator’s erratic sentence structure. The main idea of these few lines is simple; the narrator is attempting to convince the reader that although
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The constant usage of punctuation marks, such as exclamation points, creates a jarring and uneasy tone, especially when paired with phrases like “Ha!” (line 27) in humorless context. The narrator uses exclamation points, trying to make light of the situation and stimulate reader involvement. When the narrator describes entering his victim’s room, he says, “Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust [my head] in!” (lines 23-24). Knowing that the reader would not actually laugh in this situation, the narrator adds an exclamation point to make the situation seem less grim. This ends up further emphasizing his instability. It is the narrator’s constant usage of the em dash (long dash) that sets the story’s unstable, disturbing mood. The narrator uses this punctuation mark as he repeats and interrupts his own thought process, often more than once in a single sentence. Punctuation is used throughout the passage to support the other methods of showing the narrator’s mental state.

Edgar Allan Poe, writing in the first person as an unnamed man, uses syntax to express the idea that the narrator is unstable. Though the narrator spends most of the passage convincing his reader that he is sane, his words have an adverse effect because of the structure. Abrupt sentences and repetition show that the narrator is unable to clearly communicate his thoughts. His words are littered with punctuation marks that
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