Saturday, October 16, 2010

Classroom Book Review: The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Pages: (It's a short story)
Genre: Gothic Fiction/Horror
Pub. Date: Originally published in 1843
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads says, "Suspense, fear and the supernatural provide the center for these tales by the master prose writer."

I always read this story around Halloween with my 8th graders and it is guaranteed to keep them on the edge of their seats.  Edgar Allan Poe's unnamed character insists that he is sane despite the fact that he killed an old man with what he believes is a "vulture" eye.  He swears that he likes the man, but it's the eye that drives him nuts. It's easy for readers to pick up that this is definitely an unreliable narrator.  The narrator dismembers the old man in true Dexter fashion and then hides his body under the floorboards.  Lets just say the cops get involved and the narrator's guilt starts to become evident, especially when he thinks he hears the old man's heart beating under the floorboard. Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell Tale Heart" is a must read for fans of Gothic fiction as this classic is one of the best examples of the genre.

My students LOVE this story.  One year we were reading it and we lost electricity in the building and my room that year didn't have windows. The room was pitch black! My students were so scared; it was hysterical. They thought I planned it, but my point is that Poe creates such a eerie atmosphere like no other.  It's the perfect read aloud for Halloween.  

Poe's writing style is very suspenseful and keeps even the most reluctant reader engaged.  It is written so well that it is extremely easy to visualize.  Also, this story, due to its incredible suspense, is great for having students make predictions and discuss whether they were accurate. Students love to predict where the story is going to go, but many will find their predictions are way off as they don't suspect the narrator will actually kill the old man!  My students also love to try and figure out the relationship between the old man and the narrator as well as the narrator's interest in the old man's "vulture" eye.  These debatable topics always lend themselves to interesting discussions.

If you haven't read "The Tell Tale Heart," consider picking it up this Halloween. I highly recommend it!  If you are a teacher, check out these resources for this short story.  I also use this fabulous website whenever I teach Poe.  The students love it and no one can deny Poe's ghostly bone-chilling style.


  1. Love this! I think the story might be a bit too scary for my 5th graders but I love that you bring such a classic story and author into the classroom.

    How cool that the electricity went out when you were reading the story - I am sure that is something your students will always remember.

    Great post!

  2. JuJu- It really is a good classic- especially around Halloween!

    Lit for Lunch- Yeah, your 5th graders would probably be freaked out! :) Thanks for visiting!

  3. Agreed! Great it for the first time in full this past year (or so). Perfect creepy tale for this time of year and definitely a good example of how less is sometimes more. Happy reading!


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