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Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive ("The Tell-Tale Heart")

4 minutes

(Describer) A man writes.

(male narrator) In 1843, a hard-working magazine editor, poet, and writer named Edgar Poe published one of the most popular horror stories ever written.

(Describer) The Tell-Tale Heart. Chris Sarandon reads.

"True!--nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous "I have been and am. "But why will you say that I am mad? "The disease had sharpened my senses not destroyed, not dulled them."

(male #1) The narrator grabs you right in the first sentence.

(Describer) Jeffery Myers:

He said, "Mad? You think I am mad? People say I'm mad, I'm not mad," and he's clearly mad, yet he's telling you this story that is mad and sane at the same time.

(Describer) In dramatization, Poe stares at the tip of his pen before writing. Clouds of ink fill a sky.

(narrator) The narrator creeps into an old man's room and murders him while he's sleeping.

(Describer) A shadow appears in a window.

(Chris Sarandon) "You should've seen how wisely "I proceeded--with what caution--with what foresight-- "with what dissimulation I went to work. "I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him."

(Describer) Paul Collins:

(male #2) It has the barest elements of a shocking murder story and yet he turns it into something that's universal.

(Describer) Someone rides a horse.

(narrator) Poe's stories were often set in nameless places, the time left vague. But in the 1840s, his themes resonated in a raw, new nation that had yet to wrestle with some basic flaws.

(Describer) illustrations depict soldiers attacking Native people, and Black slaves in chains.

(Describer) In another, a man with a moustache and top hat smirks. J. Gerald Kennedy:

(male #3) Poe writes about violence and cruelty, madness and irrationality, existential doubt, and dread. He wanted Americans to understand what was strange about their own culture. He saw that strangeness-- the strangeness that most people didn't see.

(Describer) Wiping excess ink from a pen, Poe starts to write.

(male #4) There is so much emotion in those stories that we sometimes misread only for horror or for shock, but really what it is is a kind of love.

(Describer) The blurred figure of a woman turns from a window. James Hutchisson:

Throughout his life, he was searching for unequivocal love.

(Describer) In flickering candlelight, Poe turns. He holds the candle as he walks through darkness.

(Describer) A door opens. Accessibility provided by the US Department of Education.

Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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In this segment, students explore Poe's famous short story "The Tell-Tale Heart." Through literary analysis, students consider why the story remains popular today and how Poe hooks readers from the very first sentence. Part of the "Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive" series. Please Note: This resource contains material that may be sensitive for some students. Teachers should exercise discretion in evaluating whether this resource is suitable for their class.

Media Details

Runtime: 4 minutes

Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Episode 1
3 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Episode 3
9 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Episode 4
6 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Episode 5
3 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12