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??If any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression” (Mowery, 1997), but he was never content to give up that immediate emotional impression he could achieve by delivering the story all at once. To build up the suspense and horror of his stories, Poe makes very careful use of symbol-rich imagery and descriptions that rely on the concept of binary oppositions for their impact. A binary opposition can be considered the same thing as a polar opposite – two things that can’t exist side by side but also can’t really exist without the other. Examples of binary oppositions could be male and female, hot and cold, dark and light. Poe uses these oppositions to give us a sense of his character and then surprises and terrifies us with a shift that upsets our understanding. “It is in the subtle shifts in our expectations of the character that tension and conflict are developed” (1997). For Poe, the greatest horror is madness which the reader gets to experience to some degree through his manipulation of the symbols as can be seen in a comparison of “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat”.
Poe establishes two primary symbols to convey his narrator’s madness in “The Tell-Tale Heart”. The narrator first obsesses on the appearance of the old man’s eye as it slowly forced him into murder. “He had the eye of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees – very gradually – I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever” (Poe, 156). Today’s audience might recognize the strange appearance of the old man’s eye as a highly developed cataract, but it is this creeping image over the personality of the old man, this ‘evil eye’, that seems to be upsetting to his caretaker, who must also be distraught about the other
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