In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe's narrator wields an instrument that enhances his vision, adjusts its aperture, calculates the length of exposure, and focuses a single ray of light—all to capture a specific image of someone else. By 1843, when this horror story appeared in The Pioneer, Poe had not only learned of Daguerre's new process for preserving images in a camera obscura but had also published four articles about that process and even sat for his own daguerreotype portrait. Poe's fascination with daguerreotypy influenced several of his tales in the early 1840s. This article reads “The Tell-Tale Heart” in the context of early photography, as documented by news reports, manuals, histories, and reminiscences. I argue that the process of taking daguerreotypes provided a model for both the narrator's actions and the story's construction. “The Tell-Tale Heart” evokes the procedure of setting up a camera, disclosing the lens, adjusting the focus, timing the exposure, and capturing an image. It also addresses the camera's effect on human subjects. Although Poe's contemporaries whimsically referred to torture or agony to convey the ordeal of sitting before a camera, he treated this experience as a source of genuine horror. By narrating “The Tell-Tale Heart” from the perspective of someone inflicting this torment on someone else, and by describing in detail the techniques involved—a clear allusion to the process of taking a daguerreotype—Poe created a new kind of horror tale, featuring a narrator who is obsessed with using visual technology to obtain a particular image.

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