Similes in "The Tell-tale Heart"

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Words: 615 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 6, 2024

Words: 615|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 6, 2024

Edgar Allan Poe is renowned for his mastery of the macabre and for his ability to create a sense of terror and unease in his readers through his use of language and literary devices. One such device that he frequently employs is the simile. In "The Tell-Tale Heart", Poe utilizes similes to heighten the sense of horror and to establish a connection between the reader and the tormented narrator. Through an analysis of the similes used in this chilling tale, we can gain a deeper understanding of the narrator's disturbed psyche and the themes of guilt and madness that permeate the story.
In "The Tell-Tale Heart", the narrator becomes fixated on the old man's eye, which he describes as resembling that of a vulture. This comparison serves to convey the unsettling and predatory nature of the eye, as well as the narrator's intense discomfort in its presence. By likening the eye to a vulture, a creature associated with death and decay, Poe effectively creates a chilling atmosphere that foreshadows the violent act the narrator is about to commit.
After murdering the old man, the narrator is tormented by the sound of the old man's heartbeat, which grows increasingly louder and more persistent in his mind. In an effort to drown out the sound, the narrator compares the heart to a ticking watch, observing that "it grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant" (Poe). This simile not only emphasizes the narrator's growing anxiety and guilt but also serves to remind the reader of the inescapable passage of time. Just as a ticking watch is a constant reminder of the fleeting moments, the relentless beat of the heart serves as a constant reminder of the narrator's guilt and impending doom.
As the narrator's madness escalates, he becomes convinced that the police officers who come to investigate his home can hear the sound of the old man's heartbeat. Desperate to conceal his crime, he declares that the noise is merely that of a "death-watch beetle" (Poe). By comparing the heartbeat to the sound emitted by this particular insect, the narrator emphasizes its ominous and foreboding nature. The death-watch beetle is traditionally associated with impending death and is believed to be an omen of doom. Through this simile, Poe intensifies the sense of impending danger and heightens the suspense of the narrative.
In the climactic scene of the story, overcome with guilt and paranoia, the narrator begins to hear a loud drumming sound. He describes this sensation by stating that his own heart "was like the ‘beating of the old man's heart’- a low, dull, quick sound, much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton" (Poe). This simile effectively conveys the narrator's heightened state of anxiety and his deteriorating mental state. The comparison to a muffled watch emphasizes a sense of containment and internalization, as the narrator feels trapped within his guilt and madness. It also serves to illustrate the strong connection between his own heartbeat and that of the old man, emphasizing the link between his crime and his deteriorating sanity.
Through the use of similes, Edgar Allan Poe creates a world of terror and tension in "The Tell-Tale Heart". These comparisons allow the reader to delve into the disturbed mind of the narrator and experience the horror and guilt that consume him. By likening the eye to a vulture, the heart to a ticking watch, and the heartbeat to the sound of death-watch beetles and a muffled drum, Poe expertly crafts a chilling atmosphere that lingers long after the story is finished. His use of similes adds depth and complexity to the narrative, making "The Tell-Tale Heart" one of Poe's most haunting and enduring works.

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Similes in “The Tell-Tale Heart”. (2024, March 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Similes in “The Tell-Tale Heart”.” GradesFixer, 06 Mar. 2024,
Similes in “The Tell-Tale Heart”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Similes in “The Tell-Tale Heart” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 06 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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