Edgar Allen Poe’s use of the first person narrative in The Tell-tale Heart is much more effective than Nathaniel Hawthorne’s use of the third person in Young Goodman Brown because the use of the first person in Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart allows the reader to feel the narrator’s panic while the third person narrator in Young Goodman Brown only tells the story and the reader does not feel the main character’s feelings. By telling the story of the Tell Tale Heart in the first person, Poe allows his readers to see the build up of the main characters insanity with the use of language and crazy and rambling dialogue.
On the other hand, Hawthorne’s use of the third person simply narrates the story and tells of Brown’s feelings rather than having the reader identify with Brown. In Young Goodman Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the third person narrator to tell the tale of a young man who sets out on a walk in the evening. Before he leaves, his wife of only three months begs him to stay home and begin his journey in the morning but the young man refuses only saying, “What my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already, and we have but three month married. ” The reader does not know Goodman Brown’s feelings.
The reader does not know the tone behind the words. Is Brown annoyed with his wife for doubting him, does he find it funny that she will miss him and he will only be gone a short while or does he feel badly that he is leaving her alone when she asked him to stay at home with her. If Hawthorne had given a clue as to what lay behind Young Goodman Brown’s words, the reader would have been able to feel more connected to Brown on a personal level. In order to want to continue reading a story, a reader needs to, on some level care about what happens to the main character in the story.
In using the third person narrator, the author does not allow the reader to feel connected to the main character. The third person narrator gives the facts, not the feelings. He is a news commentator, only reporting events. Hawthorne, by using the third person narrator, does not allow the reader to become fully involved in the story. Later in the story, Young Goodman Brown has a conversation with the devil. The devil tells Brown that he was acquainted with his father and grandfather and that they had been involved in evil business.
Brown shows no emotion when he receives this information. The reader does not know if Brown is frightened, repulsed or disgusted by the thought of his relatives consorting with the devil. Brown does not even try to deny such a claim which, in early New England, would surely have been heresy. Brown’s only response to the information is to say,” If it be as thou sayest, replied Goodman Brown, I marvel they never spoke of these matters. Or, verily, I marvel not, seeing that the last rumor of the sort would have driven them from New England. Again, the reader had no clue as to Brown’s true emotions. In order for a reader to care about the story, how it ends, whether or not it is true, a reader has to have an idea of what the main character thinks. The reader needs to know more than the words that are spoken; he needs to know the sentiment behind the words. At the end of the story, the reader does not know if the story is true nor does he necessarily care because the use of the third person narrator did not enable the reader to feel a connection with Young Goodman Brown.
On the other hand, Edgar Allen Poe writes in the first person narrator and the reader is able to experience all that the main character is feeling. The reader feels more connected to the main character because he knows what is going through the main characters mind. This allows the reader to become more involved in the story and therefore be more vested in the outcome. The reader is not left to make his own assumptions; the information is given to him through the main characters dialogue.
In the beginning of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the dialogue that the main character has regarding his feelings about the old man and his eye clearly show his madness. He states that he loves the old man and has no ill feelings toward him but hates only his eye. Yet, the main character kills the old man. With the use of the first person narrator, it is easy to understand the level of the main character’s insanity because he, the main character, shows it with his actions and words.
If this were written in another form, where the events were simply reported, the reader would read of the bad deed but not understand the depth of the killer’s insanity. This style encourages the reader to continue to read the story to see just how far the main character’s psychosis will take him. Later, when describing his encounter with the police, the narrator explains his anxiety when he says, “I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears…No doubt I now grew very pale; – but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. The narrator paints a clear picture of himself. It is easy for the reader to visualize the main characters body language and to understand his state of mind due to his rambling inner conversation. Poe allows the reader inside the head of the main character. Even as the main character is professing his sanity, his words and actions show otherwise. The reader is able to identify the main character’s state of mind because it is the main character who is telling the story. This style also pulls the reader along encouraging the reader to find out where the story will go next.
The first person narrator draws the reader into the story because the reader knows how the man is reacting to the various situations. In conclusion, the first person narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale heart is a more effective writing style than the than the third person narrator in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown because Poe’s first person narrator allows the reader to see and feel what the main character is feeling while Hawthorne’s third person narrator forces the reader to come to his own conclusions because the narrator does not give the reader any clues about how to feel.
The more information that the reader has about the main character, the more likely he is to want to continue to read a short story. Poe’s first person narrator allows a reader inside the head of the main character while Hawthorn’s third person narrator only reports the events.