Searching for Commonalities in Poe's "The Raven" and "The Tell-Tale Heart"

27 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

Big Idea

Poe perpetuates the unreliable narrator.


One of the reasons I love this Gothic unit is because it is easy for students to see structures that are common in an author's works.  Edgar Allan Poe may seem easy and is read in middle school.  I find revisiting some of his works junior year give students an opportunity to apply higher order thinking skills that they did not possess in their younger years.  "The Tell-Tale Heart" is read in the eighth grade at my school; however, I show students the video so that they can see the similarities to "The Black Cat."  For example, the narrator in each is unreliable and suffering from psychological issues.  Guilt drives each character insane.  Each character has an obsession: the eye in "The Tell-Tale" and the cat(s) in "The Black Cat."

I chose these three works because they share many of the same Gothic techniques such as the use of an unreliable narrator, the grotesque, and a doppleganger or double.  In my quest to help students see structures and techniques in literature, these three works provide a clear representation of how an author will develop a style by inserting similar themes in a work of literature.  The themes will be evident as we examine the structures common in each work.

We watch a video of "The Tale-Tale Heart" because most students have read the short story in middle school and the purpose of this activity is to simply review the material and assist students in recognizing the Gothic techniques.  These structures are also prevalent in "The Raven."

Lastly, we read the poem "The Raven" and watch the short clip just to add some ambiance to this activity.  Following these activities, we will begin to sort out all the Gothic techniques by completing the triarch.

Watch "The Tell-Tale Heart"

20 minutes

As I previously stated, I want students to physically see common Gothic structures in "The Tell-Tale Heart" that exist in "The Black Cat."  We watch the video, which runs about 17 minutes.  As students watch, they complete the Gothic elements worksheet, posted in the previous day's lesson.

Read "The Raven"

20 minutes


I will show the video of "The Raven" as students follow along on the attached text version of the poem.  I like to give them a visual to provide some drama and Gothic effect.  After reading the poem, I will ask students to answer the questions so that they can check for understanding.

Poe Triarch

30 minutes

In this section, I want students to see the commonalities in Poe's work.  In fact, I often point out that Poe isn't the only author who repeats the same types of structures in his or her work.  If we had read another work by F. Scott Fitzgerald, we would have seen the same type of repetition.

I allow students to work with a partner on this assignment because I really want them to delve deep into the three works to complete the triarch.  I would like them to have an intellectual conversation with regard to the Gothic techniques in each work. 


For homework, I am going to ask each student to write a reflection to two Gothic elements that they noticed in each work.  I want them to explain how Poe uses each element and why he incorporated it into his work.  Students will pair up their arguments with at least one quote per element from any of the three works to support their contentions.