Glossary of Terms

In the short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, there are many rhetorical devices that make up the story. It is very interesting to look through the short story and pick out parts of it and be able to tell what they are categorized as in literature. The seven rhetorical devices that can be found many times within “The Tell-Tale Heart” are amplification, apophasis, epithet, hyperbole, metaphor, parenthesis, and rhetorical question.

Amplification, which is “repeating a word or expression while adding more detail to it in order to emphasize what might otherwise be passed over,” can be found in this story. Amplification occurs many times within “The Tell-Tale Heart.” An example of amplification within this story is when the speaker wants the person to whom he is confessing to understand how important certain parts of his story are. “I talked more quickly –more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased.” The speaker has to constantly use amplification because he is desperately trying to convince his listener that he is not mad. He doesn’t manage to convince anyone because as the story goes on, he goes deeper into his madness.

The next rhetorical device that can be found within this story is apophasis, which “asserts or emphasizes something by pointedly seeming to pass over, ignore, or deny it.” This occurs throughout the entire story because the speaker is constantly trying to deny his madness to the point that he actually believes that he is not mad. “TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story.” Another rhetorical device that can be found within the story is epithet. “Epithet is an adjective or adjective phrase appropriately qualifying a subject (noun) by naming a key or important characteristic of the subject.” An important epithet in the story is when he describes his nervousness. He describes himself as being “dreadfully nervous.”

Hyperbole is another rhetorical device found within “The Tell-Tale Heart.” “Hyperbole, the counterpart of understatement, deliberately exaggerates conditions for emphasis or effect. In formal writing the hyperbole must be clearly intended as an exaggeration.” Although the example of a hyperbole found in “The Tell-Tale Heart” is an exaggeration, it is also a very important part of the story. He describes the eye that he claims is the reason to why he murdered the old man as being an “evil eye.” This of course is not true. The eye that the old man has is simply a false eye, but the speaker is convinced that the eye is evil and that the only way for the eye to be destroyed is for him to murder the old man.

Another rhetorical device found in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” is metaphor. “Metaphor compares two different things by speaking of one in terms of the other. Unlike a simile or analogy, metaphor asserts that one thing is another thing, not just that one is like another.” “He had the eye of a vulture– a pale blue eye, with a film over it.” Here the speaker is saying that the false eye that the old man has is that of a vulture. This is a very significant comparison because the vulture is usually found to be an evil bird and associated with evil in literature. Therefore, it makes sense for the speaker to say that the eye is that of a vulture because he believes the eye to be evil.

Parenthesis is yet another rhetorical device found within this short story. Poe uses parenthesis a lot within “The Tell-Tale Heart.” “Parenthesis is a final form of hyperbaton, consists of a word, phrase, or whole sentence inserted as an aside in the middle of another sentence.” An example of such used within “The Tell-Tale Heart” is “I undid the lantern-oh, so cautiously –cautiously (for the hinges creaked) –I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye.” Here Poe uses the parenthesis to explain why the speaker undid the lantern so cautiously. The last rhetorical device that can be found within the story is rhetorical question. “Rhetorical question differs from hypophora in that it is not answered by the writer, because its answer is obvious or obviously desired, and usually just a yes or no. It is used for effect, emphasis, or provocation, or for drawing a conclusionary statement from the facts at hand.” An example of rhetorical question within this story is when the speaker asks “Why would you say that I am mad?” Here the speaker is asking a question that he expects no answer to because he thinks that he is providing the person, to whom he is confessing, a story, which will prove that he is not mad.

There are many more rhetorical devices that can be found within “The Tell-Tale Heart,” but these are the ones that really seemed important to discuss. They are also the most significant rhetorical devices in the story in my opinion. They bring up a lot of important parts of the story and knowing what these parts in the story are categorized as, makes the story easier to understand.

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