A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of only the heart essay, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills. The following material is adapted from a handout prepared by Harry Livermore for his high school English classes at Cook High School in Adel, Georgia. It is used here with his permission.
The last sentence of this paragraph must also contain a transitional “hook” which moves the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper. Edgar Allan Poe stories he read as a child gave him the inspiration and instruction he needed to become the writer that he is. Poe, as does Stephen King, fills the reader’s imagination with the images that he wishes the reader to see, hear, and feel. His use of vivid, concrete visual imagery to present both static and dynamic settings and to describe people is part of his technique. Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a story about a young man who kills an old man who cares for him, dismembers the corpse, then goes mad when he thinks he hears the old man’s heart beating beneath the floor boards under his feet as he sits and discusses the old man’s absence with the police. In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a careful reader can observe Poe’s skillful manipulation of the senses.
The topic is Poe’s use of visual imagery. The sense of sight, the primary sense, is particularly susceptible to manipulation. In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe uses the following image to describe a static scene: “His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness . Poe used the words “black,” “pitch,” and “thick darkness” not only to show the reader the condition of the old man’s room, but also to make the reader feel the darkness.
Poe stimulates the reader’s sense of feeling as well as his sense of sight. Tell-Tale Heart” is presented and briefly discussed. Further on in the story, Poe uses a couple of words that cross not only the sense of sight but also the sense of feeling to describe a dynamic scene. The youth in the story has been standing in the open doorway of the old man’s room for a long time, waiting for just the right moment to reveal himself to the old man in order to frighten him.
Poe writes: “So I opened it –you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily–until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye. Poe almost makes the reader gasp, as surely did the old man whose one blind eye the young man describes as “the vulture eye. The reader does not know much about what the old man in this story looks like except that he has one blind eye. In the second paragraph of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe establishes the young man’s obsession with that blind eye when he writes: “He had the eye of the vulture–a pale blue eye, with a film over it. This “vulture eye” is evoked over and over again in the story until the reader becomes as obsessed with it as does the young man. His use of the vivid, concrete word “vulture” establishes a specific image in the mind of the reader that is inescapable.
Thick darkness,” “thread of the spider,” and “vulture eye” are three images that Poe used in “The Tell-Tale Heart” to stimulate a reader’s senses. Poe wanted the reader to see and feel real life. He used concrete imagery rather than vague abstract words to describe settings and people. If Edgar Allan Poe was one of Stephen King’s teachers, then readers of King owe a debt of gratitude to that nineteenth-century creator of horror stories. This summarizes those three paragraph.
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