Study Guide

The Tell-Tale Heart Writing Style

By Edgar Allan Poe

Writing Style

Concisely Chaotic

Stylistically, Poe can be quite maddening, even as we marvel at the precision and at the tightly packed, exquisitely worded, yet curiously rough sentences—each open to hours of debate.

Within the ten-paragraph frame of "A Tell-Tale Heart" we see many groups of short sentences, like this:

Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. (1)

A web of complications is spun from just thirteen words. We also see longer sentences like this:

So I opened it – you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily – until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye. (6)

Notice how the longer sentence is actually less ambiguous and frustrating than the very short ones. The long sentence gives us a precise description, while the short ones leave us grasping for meaning. This is a carefully constructed world, a miniature word puzzle where each piece reflects an angle of the narrator's chaotic mind.