To what extent do 'The Black Cat' and 'The Tell-Tale Heart' by Edgar Allen Poe conform to the conventions of the Gothic Horror Genre?

Essay by jimbarson February 2004

download word file, 10 pages 3.9

Downloaded 109 times

During the 18th century the gothic horror genre became popular with stories such as 'Frankenstein' and 'Dracula.' By using the conventions of the Gothic horror to his advantage and also expressing a recognisable individual style, Poe has become one of the, most respected writers of his genre.

To study the extent that Poe conforms, the conventions of the genre must first be identified. A dictionary definition of Gothic Horror states that it is 'of or like a style of writing popular in the late 18th century which produced stories set in lonely frightening places with ruined castles, haunted graveyards, and eerie noises.' However, when reading such stories, other common conventions become apparent. Some of these are paranoia, fear of the 'dark side,' and images of ruin and decay.

In 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' the common features of a gothic horror story become clear from the start. Poe says 'will you say that I am mad?' This shows that Poe is trying to play on people's fear of the dark side of the mind and the demons associated with insanity.

This shows how Poe often did not create something scary but instead he took something people were already afraid of and made it seem more real. Also, the way this quote is phrased as a question makes the character sound paranoid. The question suggests he needs reassurance on his mental state and is therefore unstable. Poe then continues to describe this madness as a 'disease,' the idea of a disease can be closely linked with images of decay of a physical or in this case mental state. Therefore, within the first two lines of 'The Tell-Tale Heart' Poe has used three ideas that are considered conventions of gothic horror.

However, as you continue to read the story it...