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The Tell-Tale Heart

The Tell-Tale Heart


by Edgar Allan Poe

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Tragedy

Anticipation Stage

The old man's has a creepy eye.

Our hero, the narrator, has been harassed by the old man's eye for too long (though we don't know how long). So, the narrator decides to get rid of the man, to get rid of the eye. Now the narrator has something to look forward to. His/her "energies have found a focus," which is what Booker says this stage is all about.

Dream Stage

Eight nights of spying on the old man, and murder.

The narrator really enjoys the whole process, the waiting, the killing, and the cutting up of the body and hiding it under the floorboards. In fact, the narrator seems to be getting away with his scheme.

Frustration Stage

Would you mind turning down the volume?

The police arrive just a few minutes after the narrator has hidden the body, but that's not the problem. They seem to suspect nothing. The problem is the ringing in the narrator's ears that just keeps getting louder. This ringing is what Booker calls "a shadow figure" – a mysterious form (in this case a sonic form) that "threatens the hero."

Nightmare Stage

The volume control only goes one way – up.

The situation is now slipping out of the narrator's control." The mysterious sound is keeps getting louder and louder and louder, but nobody else seems to hear it.

Destruction or Death Wish Stage

The narrator reveals his guilt.

Here's where the story doesn't quite fit the tragedy mold: the narrator doesn't die, but instead condemns himself.

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