Time and physical setting
Published in the 1840s, the short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe was probably intended to be read as a contemporary one.
The fact that the story is not very precise regarding both the time and physical setting contributes to creating a sense of mystery which is typical of thriller and horror stories.
The main events span over eight days. The narrator spies on the old man “for seven long nights – every night just at midnight” (p. 155, ll. 18-19). On the final day, the narrator kills and hides the body of the old man between midnight and 4 o’clock in the morning (p. 157, l. 18). The time setting of the story also includes the future day when the narrator is telling the story, but this date is not specified.
The events take place inside a house, with the main setting being the old man’s bedroom. It is typical of gothic stories to describe the physical setting as dark and confusing: “His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door” (p. 155, ll. 33-36).
In the old man’s bedroom, three elements represent importance for the ph...