Title: The Tell-Tale Heart
Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Genre: Horror / Gothic / Classics
Started: 30th September 2016
Completed: 30th September 2016
Summary: ‘Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was a groan of mortal terror … the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul.’
Stories about murder, mystery and madness, portraying the author’s feverish imagination at its creative height.
Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer who was prominent in American Romanticism. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. Poe had an odd but fascinating life and he died at the age of 40. His cause of death is unknown but has been attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and many other things.
Penguin’s Little Black Classics are usually collections of short stories, collections of poetry, or sections of larger works. I have previously reviewed Come Close by Sappho, A Slip Under the Microscope by H. G. Wells, and A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin from this collection.
At just 8 pages long The Tell-Tale Heart is a short story that packs a real punch. The narrator is almost frantic in his insistence that he’s not mad even though he admits to killing a man to rid himself of ‘the eye forever’. He happily commits the deed of murder but he’s driven mad and hands himself over to the police after being tormented by the phantom beating of his victim’s heart.
Edgar Allan Poe is a masterful writer who creates a thrilling story in just a few pages.
Son coeur est un luth suspendu; Sitôt qu’on le touche il résonne.
I love the quote that Poe uses at the beginning. It’s beautiful.
The story itself is amazing. It features an unnamed narrator visiting his friend who is said to be ill. The house of Roderick Usher is dark and covered in tapestries and the narrator mentions a thin crack extending from the roof, down the front of the house and into the tarn (or lake). Roderick tells the narrator that his twin sister Madeline is also ill and she dies while the narrator is staying out the house. She is entombed before final burial by the narrator and his friend. The story begins to grow stranger after Madeline’s death until the end where the narrator flees the house of his friend in terror. I don’t want to spoil this short story at all so I’m not going to mention an more of the plot.
The Fall of the House of Usher is a compelling story full of twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat.
I found The Cask of Amontillado a bit strange but still enjoyable. Montresor, the narrator of the story, recounts the day he took revenge upon Fortunato by luring him into a cellar with the promise of a pipe (about 490 litres) of a rare sherry wine called Amontillado. He proceeds to ply Fortunato with drink until he can easily chain him to the wall and leave him for dead.
The Cask of Amontillado is morbid and dark and exactly what I’d expect of Poe. It was completely different from the two previous stories but I found it thoroughly engaging.
I really enjoyed this book. Poe is a fantastic writer and he packs so much into so few words. I can’t recommend this little edition enough. It’s only 80p for the book but I have linked free online versions of each of the short stories featured in the book in case you can’t / don’t want to buy it.