Suspense and Irony in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Gift of the Magi” The two short stories “A Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe and “The Gift of the Magi” by O’ Henry were two short stories that showed the writing skills of their authors. O’ Henry and Poe were two writers from different time periods, but use the same literary techniques in their works. Irony is defined as “a contradiction between expectation and reality” and suspense as “the growing interest and excitement felt while awaiting a climax or resolution. ” O’ Henry and Poe used either suspense, irony, or both to make their stories more intense for the readers. The Gift of the Magi” is centered on two main characters Jim and Della. It is a Christmas themed story in which a poor couple find themselves in a difficult situation when looking to buy presents for each other, when they find out them both have no money. Jim’s pride and joy is a golden watch and Della’s most prized possession is her hair. But when they both go to buy presents for each other they both sell their most prized possessions to buy gifts. When they show each other there presents they are shocked to find Della bought a chain for Jims watch, and Jim bought combs for Della’s hair!
The irony in this story is that they both bought gifts for each other, which they could no longer use. It uses a specific type of irony called situational irony it is defined as “an event occurs that directly contradicts the expectations of the characters, the reader, or the audience. ” The author used this type of irony to surprise the readers, and directly relate it to the biblical story of the three magi. It adds a sense of humor when the readers find out what they did, but also a connection towards the characters feelings. But how could irony and also suspense be used in the other work?
The story “The Tell-Tale Heart” is centered on a man (no name is given) who explains how he killed an old man. The story starts off with the man explaining how he is sane, and then tells how killed an old man. He says he hates the old man for his eye, so every night he sneaks in his room and shines a light on his eye, waiting for him to open his eye so he can strike. One night the old man does open his eye when the man’s finger slips on the lantern, the old man wakes up frightened, all the man can hear is the old man’s heart beating, annoyed and impatient the man strikes, smothering the old man to death.
When the police arrive the next day claiming a neighbor heard a scream in the night the man shows them around and when they are content they sit down, but the man’s guilt is eating him alive and he can still hear the heart beating in his head, when he can’t take it any longer he admits his guilt and tells the police what he had done. Suspense is used from the beginning, the man admits to the reader first that he killed the old man, but you don’t know if it is true or not, or when and if it will happen, the suspense is fulfilled when the story reaches the climax that the man did kill the old man.
But the Tell-Tale heart also uses irony to explain the story for one, the death of one man with what may be considered a flaw (his eye) at the hands of one with a much more severe flaw (madness) is ironic. And another example is the fact that the killer claims he is not mad, when in fact he is. But “The Tell-Tale Heart” uses two new types of irony, dramatic irony and verbal irony, dramatic is defined as “irony that is inherent in speeches or a situation of a drama and is understood by the audience but not grasped by the characters in the work. And verbal as “Verbal irony is when a character says one thing but means another. ”An example of dramatic irony would be the first example, and verbal the second example O’ Henry and Poe were two writers from different time periods, but managed to successfully use the same literary techniques in their works. Shown in both works so well, irony was used with blunt precision. But suspense was used with a sly and cunning ability only an extraordinary poet like Poe could produce. This is why both works today are still considered examples of the classic short story, and are still widely read today.