The world through the eyes of an eighth grader is a wonderful thing. Even a classic work such as Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart takes on a fresh, new look when seen through the eyes of a fourteen year old.
The mysterious and suspenseful story is a staple in junior high classrooms. It’s one of the few pieces in a teacher’s arsenal that can be counted on to score points with today’s horror-loving teens, especially near Halloween. Student’s get so caught up in the elements of the story they don’t seem to mind learning a few analytical techniques.
Several years ago, during our annual study of the master, I had done all the usual necessary things to build up to the story. They knew Poe’s colorful and questionable background story. They understood that he was the father of crime and detective fiction. They were fully prepared to dive into his macabre tale of murder and madness.
The reading went really well and they were willing participants in the follow-up discussions and activities. One of the assignments students completed after reading the book was designed to get the students thinking about the steps in plot development. A question asked why the neighbors got suspicious and called in the police to investigate. The correct answer was that the observant folks in the next house over heard a scream and suspected foul play. One particularly advanced student had a different perspective. His answer was that the good Samaritans, upon hearing someone cry out, suspected FOREplay and called in the authorities to restore moral order. Perhaps the antagonist in Poe’s work was the literary ancestor of Christian Gray?