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Setting, Symbolism And Point Of View As The Most Common Literary Devices In Edgar Allan Poe's Works

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In Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic tales the use of literary devices such as setting, symbolism, and point of view are frequently used to reveal significant aspects of a central character. This can be portrayed in the short stories by Edgar Allen Poe's tell-tale heart, the black cat, the fall of the house of the usher. The gothic tales are used to portray a person’s deepest and darkest fears and the actions that are caused by them with negative repercussions. Edgar Allan Poe is able to achieve this and also reveal the aspects that were developed and revealed using literary devices were paranoia and guilt.

Symbolism is one of the main literary devices that the author Edgar Allen Poe uses in his gothic tale stories to reveal significant aspects of a central character in the short stories. The symbols are also used to foreshadow some events that occur later on in the story. 1. In the tell-tale heart, there are various uses of symbolism that contribute to revealing the paranoia and guilt of the main character, The first one is the narrator's heart which represents the self-betrayal of the narrator since the heart is what made him confess to his crime, the second one is the old man's gazing eye which represents insanity or obsession since it makes the narrator commit the heinous act of murdering the old man, the third one is the police which represents the inner fear or conscience of the mind which ultimately leads him to confess to his crime. “... I think it was the eye! Yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture- a pale blue eye, with a film over it.”(Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, page 1). The tyrant’s fear of the eye can be used to show the paranoia going on in the tyrant’s mind. This is all used to develop the portrayal of the narrator to the reader since it shows that the narrator actually has a sense of paranoia and feels as if the main character is taking retribution for the things done to him which leads to guilt towards the end of each story. 2. In the story, the black cat the symbols that appear are the black cat that symbolizes misfortune or bad luck, the old man tries to get rid of the cat in hope of removing any bad luck in his life, this portrays that the old man is paranoid and lets his paranoia lead his actions, yet the second cat brings the old man's demise at the end of the story by exposing him to the police of his crime. Another symbol would be the alcohol, this represents the evil within himself, as the story progresses the amount of alcohol consumed by the old man shows that the evil is taking over him and his actions which are demonstrated in the story with the killing of the cat and his wife. “It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself -to offer violence to its own nature-to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only - that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury that I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. “(Poe, “The Black Cat”, page 2). In this quote, the narrator talks about how the evil within himself had taken over to commit acts against such an innocent animal, in this case, the cat. The sense of paranoia is shown through the fact that the old man is afraid of the black cat and tries to take revenge by killing it then ends up murdering his wife which leads to guilt towards the end of the story where he talks about these events in his prison cell. proof 3. In the fall of the house of usher, the paranoia of the tyrant is portrayed through various ways such the symbol used, which is the house itself since the house’s foundation represents that the house is coming to an end which also correlates the family line, this shows that the tyrant of the story has the paranoia of continuing the family line and later on in the story talks about his sister's death represents the end of the twisted family line, there is no guilt factor is the main character as he has no remorse of his actions. proof

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Another method used by Edgar Allen Poe to reveal significant aspects of a central character gothic tale is the setting, the setting in the stories is commonly known as a dark and gloomy atmosphere that imitates the narrator’s mind. 1. The tell-tale heart is the old man's house, this represents that the narrator has the paranoia of not having to get revenge in a public place, yet he proceeds to do it old man's house at night in his bedroom where it is ever so quiet and eery, this also helps the tyrant rid of the evidence, this shows that the narrator is careful and does meticulous planning such as stalking the old man for 8 days before brutally murdering the old man thus getting his retribution for the evil eye. 2In the black cat, the setting is the prison cell in which the old man tells his story right at beginning of the story, the story took place in two houses, one which burned down to his actions and the second where he commits murder with the victims being the cat and his wife. This shows the aspect of how the old man's paranoia and revenge that led to him burning down his first house in an attempt to kill the black cat, as well as the second house where he finally succeeds but also murder his wife in the process he also hides them in his house’s cellar wall in the paranoia of being observed by his neighbors, this also shows that the old man has no guilt for actions. 3. In the fall of the house of the usher, the story takes place in an old and fragile home of the ushers. The ushers twisted family line is connected to the house and the story, as the house can be described as having a weak foundation that is due to collapse, this foreshadows the events that correlate to the tyrants paranoia of continuing the family line in the sick and twisted matter which leads to the house eventually collapsing and the also the end of the twisted family line.

One of the most common literary devices that Edgar Allen Poe uses is the point of view since the three stories in the topic are all written in the first person. The point of view in which the story is said in is first-person where the narrator is usually the tyrant in the story. In the tell-tale, the black cat, the fall of the house of the usher the point of view reveals that the tyrants Edgar Allen Poe allows the reader to gain major insight into the tyrant's intentions through their dark and twisted first-person perspectives. In the tell-tale heart the tyrant’s mind can be portrayed through “proof” this shows that the tyrant’s paranoia had led to him committing a gruesome and vicious act of murdering the poor old man. This also reveals that the tyrant tries to justify his actions by giving an explanation to get the reader to have empathy for the tyrant. In the black cat, the tyrant had no reason to kill the cat other than the fact that he was paranoid by the fact that the cat might bring misfortune to him. The tyrant’s abuse of alcohol can be seen to be progressively getting worse throughout the story.” proof” shows the tyrant’s lack of empathy and shows the reader the loss of the ability to think straight and the true intentions that the tyrant has in mind for the cat. In the fall of the house of the usher, the point of view is shown to reveal the paranoia that the tyrant has of continuing his twisted and perverse family line, the tyrant is

The literary devices that Edgar Allen Poe uses are successfully able to reveal the aspect of the central character. This is with the help of literary devices such as symbolism, the setting and the point of view. The paranoia and guilt can be revealed through the true intentions that the tyrant has for his victims. The symbolism is used to foreshadow future events in the story. The setting is portrayed to be correlated to the tyrant’s mind and how he thinks. The point of view is used to reveal the true dark and morbid intentions that the tyrant has for the victims in the stories the “tell-tale heart”, “the black cat”, and “the fall of the house of the usher”. These were the literary devices that Edgar Allen Poe uses to reveal the aspects of the central character.

Works Cited:

  1. Giordano, R. (2007). Stories by Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, and more. Retrieved March 11, 2020, from
  2. Poe, Edgar Allan. The Cask of Amontillado. 1846.
  3. Poe, Edgar Allen. The Black Cat. 1843.
  4. Poe, Edgar Allen. The Tell-Tale Heart. 1843.
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Setting, Symbolism And Point Of View As The Most Common Literary Devices In Edgar Allan Poe’s Works. (2021, August 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 23, 2024, from
“Setting, Symbolism And Point Of View As The Most Common Literary Devices In Edgar Allan Poe’s Works.” Edubirdie, 11 Aug. 2021,
Setting, Symbolism And Point Of View As The Most Common Literary Devices In Edgar Allan Poe’s Works. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Feb. 2024].
Setting, Symbolism And Point Of View As The Most Common Literary Devices In Edgar Allan Poe’s Works [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Aug 11 [cited 2024 Feb 23]. Available from:
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