Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; –
This it is and nothing more."
- In fact, it seems like the room and its creepy atmosphere might really be getting to our speaker. Even the rustling sound of the curtains seems sad to him (13).
- As he listens, he begins to really freak out, his head filling with "fantastic terrors."
- His heart starts to beat faster too; to calm himself down, he has to tell himself (twice) that the knocking sound he hears is just a visitor.
- The more he says it though, the more we all know that it can't just be that, or at least not the kind of visitor he might be expecting…
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you" – here I opened wide the door; – –
Darkness there and nothing more.
- Eventually, he gets a hold of himself: "presently my soul grew stronger" (19).
- He calls out to the visitor he imagines must be there, and apologizes for taking so long.
- He explains that he was almost asleep and wasn't sure if he was just hearing things (20-23). Then, suddenly, he throws open the door and finds…nothing. Just the black night: "Darkness there and nothing more" (24).
- Poe is really keying up the suspense now. Again, it's hard for us not to think of a horror movie, where the nervous main character walks up to a door, slowly turns the knob, and finds nothing. That's always the sure sign that the surprise is coming, and when we least expect it.