Mood in “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”: Unveiling Literary Techniques

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Mood in “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”: Unveiling Literary Techniques

This essay will compare the mood in Poe’s “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It will analyze how Poe uses literary techniques such as imagery, tone, and rhythm to create a sense of dread and suspense in both works. On PapersOwl, there’s also a selection of free essay templates associated with Fiction.

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Setting the Mood with Diction

American journalist Norman Cousins once said, “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” The short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe is about a narrator who kills an old man due to his eye to prove his sanity. Poe’s poem “The Raven” is about the speaker trying to read himself to sleep on a cold night when he comes across a wise bird who can answer all of his questions.

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In “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven,” Poe establishes diction, allusions, and irony to create effective stories.

Crafting an Evocative Atmosphere

Firstly, Poe uses diction, the way the author or character speaks, in both his stories to contribute to the mood and tone. In Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the narrator waits for the old man to lie down with malicious intent and “a very, very little crevice in the lantern. 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.” The repetition of the words “very” and “stealthily” helps build suspense creating an ominous mood in the story and also further helps prove the narrator’s ongoing insanity despite him trying to fight it. Another example of diction is from one of Poe’s poems, “The Raven.” The speaker starts talking to the raven and realizes he can only say one word, stating, “Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly / Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore.” Poe uses words and phrases such as “relevancy bore” and “ungainly fowl” rather than using phrases that are more comprehensible and create a more sinister tone. The use of diction in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven” gives the reader a particular feeling regarding the story, causing diction to be efficacious.

Allusions: Evoking Emotion and Tone

Secondly, Poe uses allusions and references to pop culture (usually in literature) without stating it directly to establish different tones. An example of an allusion is from ¨The Raven¨. The speaker talks to the raven and remembers his lost lover, Lenore. He then states, “Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore.” Nepenthe is a reference to Homer’s “The Odyssey”. Nepenthe is a mythological drug to banish grief from one’s mind, which is the narrator’s grief for Lenore. Knowing of the speaker’s loss 2creates a tone of despondency. Another example of an allusion is from the short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” When the narrator finishes stashing the old man’s body under the floorboards, he hears a knock at his door. He opens the door, and “There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police.” The three police officers are references to the three witches in William Shakespeare’s famous play “Macbeth.” The witches stand for the darkness of Macbeth’s soul, and they indirectly represent the awful actions that she commits. This also applies to the narrator because of the police showing up; he confesses to the awful action he committed and realizes he is, in fact, guilty. The reference to “Macbeth” adds to a tone of darkness and overall guilt. Allusions in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven” give readers an indirect reference to something they might already have knowledge of and create different tones.

Irony: Layering Complexity and Mood

Lastly, Poe uses irony when something differs from what actually happens to produce different moods and allusions. In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the narrator claims to the reader that he is not insane, but he says, “I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell”  The narrator saying he has “heard things in the heaven” and “in hell” further proves his insanity because that is not necessarily normal, creating irony. The irony and description of the narrator’s mindset create an ominous mood in one’s mind. Another example is from the poem “The Raven”. When the raven enters the speaker’s property, the raven “Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door / Perched, and sat, and nothing more.” Pallas is the Greek goddess of wisdom but is mentioned repetitively as “Quoth the Raven’ Nevermore.” The raven is perched above Pallas, which indirectly states that it is above wisdom. Though, the only phrase the raven can say is “Nevermore,” creating irony. As well as creating irony, stating that the raven is “perched upon a bust of Pallas” is an allusion to Greek mythology. Irony creates allusions and moods in the two stories, making them more effectual.


  1. Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Edited by James A. Harrison, vol. 3, Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1902, pp. 1-5. 

  2. Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Raven.” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Edited by James A. Harrison, vol. 4, Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1902, pp. 41-50. 

  3. Cousins, Norman. “Quotations by Norman Cousins.” Goodreads,

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Mood in "The Raven" and "The Tell-Tale Heart": Unveiling Literary Techniques. (2023, Aug 24). Retrieved from