The Tell-Tale Heart
Essay of The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
The Tell-Tale Heart is a story that is about a man that kill a person because of his fear of eye color, he always see him in the night, when he were going to kill him he wake up and start cry but the narrator he stop and he wait for the perfect moment to kill him, when he kill him he butchered him but when the police came to the house, he blamed himself. At beginning of the story, he said that he is not crazy. The grandfather and his little grandson is about a grandfather Once upon a time there was a very old man who lived with his son and daughter-in-law. The man was so old that his hearing and sight had diminished. His hands trembled when he tried to eat. The old man would sit in the corner with tears in his eyes trying to eat his food, with trembling hands. One day he dropped his bowl and it broke on the floor. The wife scolded him and they gave him a wooden dish to eat out of instead. One night, they were sitting together and the four-year-old grandson began to gather together some bits of wood. His parents asked him what he was doing. The little boy told his parents that he was making a trough for them to eat out when his parents be old. The man and his wife were crying.
The Tell-Tale Heart and the grandfather and his little grandson one of the similarities are that they are treated badly, Both have mental problems. In the story of the Tell-Tale Heart, the protagonist has a paranoia and a mental deterioration, the murderer’s obsession with specific and unadorned entities: the old man’s eye and the heartbeat. In the story The grandfather and his little grandson he have a mental problems, his hands trembled when he tried to eat and that is a mental problem. The Tell-Tale Heart and The grandfather and his little grandson differences are that the protagonist is treated very badly and in the Tell Tale Heart they treated him normally. Another difference is that in The Tell Tale Heart the protagonist murder someone and in the grandfather and his little grandson he doesn’t kill anyone. The protagonist of The Tell Tale Heart have a fear with eye color but in The grandfather and his little grandson, he doesn’t has any fear. Another is the place where it develops the story is different. In conclusion, we can say that The Tell-Tale Heart and The grandfather and his little grandson have differences and similarities like one similarities that both have mental disability and one difference is that in The Tell Tale Heart he murder someone and in The grandfather and his little grandson he don’t kill anyone.
The Use of Imagery, Strong Irony, and Similes in The Tell-Tale Heart, a Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Literary Analysis of The Tell-Tale Heart
Edgar Allen Poe was born in 1809 and has become one of the most critically examined authors of his time. Poe was an author of many works and has undergone countless critics and attempts at analyses of his work but it is hard to understand an author who has qualities of people we don’t quite understand. Poe was a drug addict, an alcoholic, an incestuous man (although common), and a murderer or at least in his short stories he was. One example of a short story where Poe wrote about killing someone was in, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In this story, Edgar Allen Poe uses imagery, strong irony, and similes to show that humans cannot handle guilt and are dying to spill the truth
Firstly, as a person reads “The Tell-Tale Heart” there all kinds or imagery to be found. The first example of imagery to be found is when Poe talks of the “pale, blue eye, with a film over it.” Poe described the eye as such because blue represents innocence, but the paleness of the eye as well as the film that overlays the eye are representations of guilt. When a person feels guilty not only do they feel like everyone knows they did it but everyone can tell there is something different about that person and in Poe’s case it made his “blood run cold.” How would/does Poe know that the old man is guilty of something? Well, this story is a psychosexual tale and Poe is a practicing sadomasochistic person as well as he was a partaker of voyeurism (Dayon 225). This suggest to me that Poe watched every move of the old man because he loved him and loved the thrill he got from spying on him. Could it be that Poe saw the old man do something that he shouldn’t have? Or maybe Poe’s dislike of the eye was because it seemed to always be open which would limit Poe’s taboo fantasy and make it harder to fulfill. According to Gita Rajan and her paper on a feminist reading of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” She seems to think the character in Poe’s story is a female. There is no evidence to support that Poe was open to homosexuality which makes it seem more feasible that the character be a female. This doesn’t change the story, but it makes the idea more interesting, but why did Poe kill him? According to Magdalen Wing-chi Ki in her paper about ego-evil, she believes that Poe experienced the most common form of evil excuses. She describes ego-evil as, “the elevation of self-love” (Ki, 25.) Poe made himself feel so good that it outweighed the severity of the murder. Another example of imagery that shows how Poe hated the eye because of it always being open is as follows: “It was open—wide, wide open— and I grew furious as I gazed upon it.” Why would Poe be so angry at the open eye? Because it kept Poe from fulfilling his fantasy. Another example of imagery in the story is when Poe has startled the old man in his sleep and is now frozen in time to avoid being caught by the old mans “Vulture” eye. “Death, in approaching him, had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim.” This imagery is also interpreted to be a bit of foreshadowing. I believe this quote is referring to death as guilt. The guilt the old man may have had had been following him wherever he went and had consumed him. Lastly, if we look at a point in the story where the tables turn and Poe holds all the guilt we see he still uses imagery to describe what sounds guilt makes. “It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when it is enveloped in cotton.” The watch he refers to is not one you tell time with, but a beetle that symbolized coming death (More on that later.)
One of the most prominent literary devices Poe uses in his story’s is irony. Referring to the first two examples of imagery and how they connected to guilt one might not think of irony, but when you look at the third example, it shows that the guilt Poe thought the old man has was ironic to his own guilt. As Poe peered into the room where the old man slept, Poe describes listening to the “death watches in the wall.” Death watches are beetles that infest timbers and they produce a clicking sound that was thought to be an omen of death and ironically it came true. Shortly after hearing the death watches, Poe decides to rush into the room and kill the old man. There is also some irony in dismembering the man’s body. Poe decides to keep the body inside the house. The purpose of killing the old man was to rid himself of that open eye, but he kept the eye in the house with him. Another piece of irony in the story is early in the beginning. “I heard all things in heaven and in earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?” Poe doesn’t recognize that he has a physiological disorder although we (the readers) clearly see he isn’t the typical man. As the story reads on Poe continues to try and persuade the reader that he is not mad. Even after he murders the old man he tries to convince you that he couldn’t be mad. Mad men wouldn’t have been so cunning in a murder. This is all ironic because we can clearly see that Poe is crazy, but is the old man the only victim? According to Paul Witherington who writes “The Accomplice in “The Tell-Tale Heart”,” he says that there are two victims in this story. The old man and Poe himself are victims. The old man because he was murdered, but Poe also because of his mental illness (Witherington, 472.) It is possible that Poe Made this character mentally ill to simply “juice up” the story, but nothing is simple with Poe. Poe wants to change our idea of what a mad man is. He wants us to consider that a person is not mad if they can so careful plan things they wish to do.
You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work! He was a very cunning criminal and not a mad man… or that’s what he wishes for us to believe.
Lastly, Poe uses similes in his story to help describe things and to allow us to see it in our heads. “—still dark as midnight.” This quote is after the death of the old man and what time it was. “One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture.” A simile to describe the appearance of the old man’s eye. And to ultimately be a descriptor that Poe decided must be removed. In my opinion, similes simply add more quality to the poem. Irony helps build the story and imagery and similes add “flavor” to the story. The story would not have the “vulture” eye without the use of the previous simile.
To conclude, Edgar Allan Poe is arguably one of the best horror fiction writers to date and with his use of literary devices like imagery, irony, and similes, he stands out from the others. Stephan King was also a good Horror fiction writer as well. I picked this Story to analyze because I find it interesting when “madmen” find unique ways to commit crimes. For example, I like the Saw series. Although gruesome and unappealing to most, I find his witty traps unique and like Poe don’t believe they are madmen, rather individuals who think freely in a wrong way.
The Point of View of The Tell – Tale Heart
The Point of View of The Tell – Tale Heart Poe writes “The Tell Tale Heart” from the perspective of the murderer of the old man. When an author creates a situation where the central character tells his own account, the overall impact of the story is heightened. The narrator, in this story, adds to the overall effect of horror by continually stressing to the reader that he or she is not mad, and tries to convince us of that fact by how carefully this brutal crime was planned and executed.
The point of view of the narrator helps communicate that the theme is madness to the audience because from the beginning the narrator uses repetition, metaphors and irony.”True!–nervous–very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses–not destroyed–not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heavens and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?” (Literature 37) “…Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me.” (Literature 37)
As you can see the narrator is clearly mad, because this story is told in the first person it helps you understand the character even better, because we are seeing what exactly is happening to him moment by moment. It helps us understand what is going on in his head because we are getting to know him throughout the story.
The repetition in this story is phenomenal. He uses it constantly, adding to the madness of this man. “And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly –very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep.” (Literature 37) He is insane and losing it every moment of the story, repeating words and using disturbing metaphors and similes. He compares many things such as referring to the eye of the old man as the “evil eye”, and “eye of a vulture”. All the while doing this, the narrator believes that he is normal and is not insane.
The purpose of the figurative language used in this story is to coincide with helping the 1st person point of view. “Ha! Would a madman have been so wise as this,”.(Literature 37) “It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed”.(Literature 37)
This story is basically a big exaggeration of madness, showing the actions and feelings of the narrator. The narrator helps us by using all these big exaggerations to understand how he has lost his mind and is going to commit murder.The narrator repeatedly insists that he is not mad; however the reader soon realizes that the fear of the vulture eye has consumed the narrator, who by this point in the story has become a victim to the madness which he had hoped to elude. Without all the figurative language it would be hard to see that the theme of this story, being madness, is all possible due to the point of view being in first person.
We see that the character never changed, but by the end of the story the narrator finally realizes that what he was trying to convince himself of was completely false. For his madness he revealed in the beginning only gets the best of him in the end.
Kennedy, X.J., and Dana Gioia.
An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Pearson, 2016, 2013, and 2010
Depiction Of Madness In “Berenice” And “The Tell-Tale Heart” By Edgar Allen Poe
Throughout many texts Edgar Allen Poe has shown that he is afraid of those who are mentally insane yet truly believe that they are rational, reasonable people. While reading the short stories “Berenice” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” you can see his fears come through in somewhat irrational ways.
In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe writes about a man who becomes obsessed with a man’s eye. The old man is blind and so there is a blue haze over his eye. The narrator decides he needs to kill the man to be free of it, so he sneaks into his room every night for a week. One day the old man wakes up and the narrator lunges at him and suffocates him. Once he hears his heart stop beating he removes the mattress he used to suffocate him. Once he sees that the man is dead, he cuts his body up and puts it under the floor. One of the neighbors called the police because they heard screaming, so when the police showed up the narrator convinced them that everything was all right. While they were talking the storyteller got a sense of guilt and confessed to everything, showing them where he buried the body.
The storyteller was a normal man who would not be classified as mentally unfit. He was a mentally sane man who become obsessed with something out of the ordinary. He was so obsessed that he became mentally ill and did not know it. He thought it was rational to sneak into the man’s room for eight days. He realized after he murdered the man and the police talked to him that it was not sane for him to murder the man over his eye being clouded over. Once the man realized what he had done he became riddled with fear and guilt. In this text you can see Poe’s fears of those who do not know what they are capable of until it happens.
In the short story “Berenice,” Poe talks about a man named Agaeus, who is in love with his cousin Berenice. The both suffer from disorders. She has a form of epilepsy; whenever she has an episode she falls unconscious and looks like she has died. Agaeus suffers from an obsessive disorder. Berenice becomes ill and the only thing that has not been affected by it are her teeth, so one day she walks in to talk to Agaeus and smiles and he becomes obsessed with her teeth. He focuses so much on that, that he ends up blacking out and not remembering any of what has happened in the lapsed time. In that time Berenice has an episode and everyone thinks she is dead, so they bury her. The next thing that Agaeus remembers is his maid running in and screaming that someone has desecrated Berenice’s grave. They look over and see the muddied shovel and clothes and he becomes so distraught when he sees a container by him. He tries to grab it a to see what is inside, but he drops it and her teeth scatter across the floor. Agaeus seems to be mentally together, but he becomes so focused on certain things in his life that days will pass by without him realizing. Days had gone by with him being so focused on Berenice’s teeth, and he had not realized until his maid snapped him out of it. Once he snapped out he realized that he had done something horrible. While in his “day dream” he had dug up Berenice’s grave, where she was buried alive, and ripped her teeth out of her head. We know she was still alive, because he was covered in claw marks from when she tried to stop him.
Poe indirectly talks about the fear of those who are deranged, but they don’t realize it. He talks about how there is evil in all of us and our hearts can become corrupted easily. In each story that he writes, he talks about the person becoming obsessed with some element in their life that drives them crazy. All of them started off as normal, active people in society until they let the darkness into their heart and were driven mad by it. They did not realize that they were going crazy until it was too late and there was irreparable damage caused by it.
I understand why Poe is afraid of those who do not see their madness. If you do not see it then there is no way for you to learn how to control it. You do not understand what you are doing wrong either. You are caught in an endless loop of pain and misery because of it.
The Use of Different Literary Elements in The Tell-Tale Heart, a Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Telltale Heart”
During the creation of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story “The Telltale Heart”, he uses several different elements to weave us the reader a thrilling page turner. He uses the elements of setting, tone in which he writes, point of view and even the characterization to create this chilling tale of suspense. For myself I believe that the main theme of this short story is guilt being monstrous and consuming nearly everything until it drives a person to complete madness.
If we dismantle a few of the key parts of the story we can see how these elements all interact with one another to pull together our main them being consuming guilt. We enter the story with a seemingly mad-man hitting the reader with a barrage of questions about being mad (Charters,1127); he seems to be on an adrenaline rush of some sort almost this peak the readers interest and pushes us to read on. Our narrator carries on the story by telling us that the old man’s eye is just like a vulture trying to consume him and he must kill the eye(Charters,1128); notice how it is not the old man our narrator wishes dead just that awful haunting eye. Our narrator went on to plot the death of the old man for days just waiting and waiting until eventually he was finally successful in killing the old man by smothering him to death. The immediate emotion by the narrator was relief that the vulture like eye would no longer bother him. I feel during this next stage of the process is where the immediate guilt begins to set in as our author is dismembering the old man’s body to be hidden away to hid his guilt for killing the man(Charters,1129) The police hearing of the screaming show up and are initially convinced that the narrator was not guilty of any wrong doing; however our narrator is eventually consumed with guilt hearing the repeating heartbeat getting louder and louder driving him mad enough to eventually confess to the entire crime of killing and dismembering the old man(Charters,1130)
I feel that the overall message or theme that Mr. Edgar Allan Poe is trying to get across with this story is that eventually the truth with always come to be known so it is best to just save yourself the madness and guilt; Just confess when you have done something in error.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
Both The Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher are great examples of how Edgar Allan Poe, an American writer born in 1809, uses the first person narration style of writing. When reading both short stories, it is very clear that the male narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s first novel The Tell-Tale Heart is much more coherent and relatable than the narrator in The Fall of the House of Usher. When reading both of the given texts, it is clear to me that when reading The Fall of the House of Usher that the narrator is more part of the background than focussed on like the narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart.
The Tell-Tale Heart, compared to The Fall of the House of Usher is more gratifying to read, as it is far easier to understand without having to look up almost every second word like you have to do in The Fall of the House of Usher. An example of this in The Fall of the House of Usher is on pg. 3 when it says “ I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.” In the first couple of pages, The Fall of the House of Usher is disorienting, and abstruse.
In The Tell-Tale Heart, the narrator is present and is somewhat the main focus, while in The Fall of the House of Usher, the narrator is generally absent, while another separate character is the main point of focus, making The Fall of the house of Usher very confusing to read. On page. 9 , the following “His action was alternately vivacious and sullen. His voice varied rapidly from a tremulous indecision (when the animal spirits seemed utterly in abeyance) to that species of energetic concision—that abrupt, weighty, unhurried, and hollow-sounding enunciation—that leaden, self-balanced and perfectly modulated guttural utterance, which may be observed in the lost drunkard, or the irreclaimable eater of opium, during the periods of his most intense excitement.” is talking about another character ( Roderick Usher ), while The Tell-Tale Heart is talking about himself, ultimately making a more relatable narrator.
In conclusion, The Tell-Tale Heart is the preferred choice, in terms of a better understanding and comprehension than that over The Fall of the House of Usher, both written by Edgar Allan Poe.
The Tell- Tale heart (1843) Essay
The introductory part will present the The Tell- Tale heart (1843), by Alan Edgar Poe, introducing the main characters viz. the narrator and the old man. The story opens with the unknown narrator confessing he is restless but not harebrained or insane, as some would want to think.
He narrates his story by defending his sound mind although he has murdered an innocent old man. The narrator lives with the old man; however, he claims that his supposedly housemate has an evil blue eye that evokes fear in him (the narrator). At this point, the narrator is not trustworthy because he does not even understand himself; he does not know whether he is psychologically sick or he is just another murderer.
This section tackles the main characters of the story and as aforementioned, the narrator and the old man are the only central characters in the story. The narrator is untrustworthy, self-righteous and a rigid person who leaves no space for learning.
He believes he is sane despite the fact that he kills the old man for no apparent reason. His sanctimonious overtones infringe is trustworthiness. On the other hand, the old man is just a victim of malice or covered insanity.
The plot summary will outline the flow of the story where once more the narrator plays the central role. As the story opens, the narrator insinuates he is insane by declaring he has a story to tell; however, the story is a defense to guard his sanity. Therefore, the events of this section will focus on the narrator as he puts forward his claims of sanity.
However, to understand where all the sanity ‘noises’ are coming from, this section will flashback to the one event that seems to infringe the narrator’s insanity; the murder of the old man. Again, the narrator’s trustworthiness is compromised for by defending his actions, he unknowingly exposes his unreliability.
The overriding theme in this story is the theme of paranoia. As the story opens, the narrator acknowledges that he is nervous for reasons he does not know. The thin, almost confusing, or blurred line between paranoia and madness comes out clearly. People think paranoia is synonymous to madness and perhaps this explains why the narrator is vehement in defending his sanity.
Paranoia in this context also underscores the blurred line between hate and love according to Benfey (78). Ironically, many a time individuals hurt the closest people in their lives. In this section, the narrator is trustworthy; he loves and needs the old man, yet he kills him.
Internal versus external forces
Ironically, the presence of police officers who come to investigate the murder of the old man does not evoke any uneasiness in the narrator. However, the deafening sounds of fear and guilt that haunt the narrator seem to take away his peace. The narrator does not confess the murder because the offices push him; no, he confesses because of guilt and self-conviction.
At this point, the story tries to emphasize that internal forces are stronger than external forces. One can defy and deny external forces like rule of law; however, defying self-conviction is tantamount to committing suicide and the narrator comes out as a trustworthy source of this scenario.
The concluding part of the essay will try to piece together the ideas raised in the story. Running from introduction, though plot summary to themes; this section will give a concise recap of the whole story.
Benfey, Christopher. “Poe and the Unreadable: ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.” New Essays on Poe’s Major Tales. United States: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Poe, Allan. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library, 1992. Web.
The Tell Tale Heart Essay
The Tell Tale Heart is a short story about a nameless narrator who commits murder. The narrator kills an old man who had a blue vulture like eye that made the narrator very uncomfortable. He plans the murder, executes it, and hides the body of the old man in the floorboard. The story falls under the gothic genre (Snodgrass, 2005). The story falls under the gothic category because it is a horror story that tells how a young narrator kills an old man in cold blood and dismembers his body in order to conceal his crime.
The killer claims he is sane and goes into details to explain how he executed the murder. However, when the police came to the Old Man’s house he gives himself away to the police because he hears the heart of the old man beating behind the floorboard and this incident may suggest that the narrator is in fact insane. The author of the story is Edgar Allan Poe an American author who was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston Massachusetts.
His parents David and Elizabeth died before Poe celebrated his second birthday. After their death, he lived with John and Frances Allan, a childless couple. His childhood was sad, he experienced death of his loved at a young age, and the deaths influenced his works, which have the theme of grisly deaths (Meyer, 2000). Poe’s s misery and suffering reverberates in his works and in popular culture today long after his death.
Poe’s story is culturally significant as it shows how the society was during his time. The people were beginning to have an interest in moral insanity (Bynum, 1989). For instance, it is difficult to tell why the narrator killed the old man at the end of the story was it insanity or plan evil disguised as fear of the pale blue eye? The narrator says that he loved the old man and the man had never wronged him yet he still kills the Old man.
The narrator’s sense of morality seems to be suspended because the brutal killing of the old man does not prick his or her conscience but disturbed by the thought that the police know who has committed the murder and only toying with the narrator’s mind. The story is economically successful even though Poe was not able to reap big economical gains from it and his other works and struggled economically.
The story is underpinned in the popular culture as people try to explain murders in which the perpetrators confess (Bloom, 2002). However, the story is economically successful because it has a large following today and it is still widely read. Moreover, the story has been adapted into the popular culture into various media such as television programs, movies that are widely watched and popular such as the Simpsons.
Lastly, the story reinforces the cultural values of moral insanity as the story tries to explain why some people commit horrendous murders to their beloved ones without a valid cause. In the society today, it is common to hear of stories about people killing people close to them for very funny reason like the prisoner in a jail who killed his cellmate because he heard voices tell him to commit the murder (Burrell, 2001).
The Tell Tale Heart is still a relevant story today as it shows how human beings can be demented and invokes people to look more into the lives and psychology mind of the people who commit despicable murders.
Bloom, H. (2002). Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Infobase Publishing.
Burrell, I. (2001). Murderer who mutilated inmate locked up for life. Web.
Bynum, P.M. (1989). The Tell Tale Heart and other stories. Ed. Bloom Harold. Web.
Meyers. J. (2000). Edgar Allan Poe: his life and legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press.
Snodgrass, M.E. Encyclopedia of Gothic literature. New York: Infobase Publishing.
Gothic Romanticism in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Nathaniel Hawthorn’s “The Birthmark” Research Paper
Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” depicts the narrator’s attempts at justifying his cruel intent of killing an elderly man with whom he shares an apartment because the elderly man keeps looking at the narrator with supposed “evil eyes”. When he eventually accomplishes his mission, the extreme guilt that arises from his cruel act makes him involuntarily confess to his hideous crime that he had killed the old man and hidden his dismembered corpse under a wooden floor.
In Nathaniel Hawthorn’s “The Birth Mark”, Aylmer, a researcher, scientist and analyst refuses to accept his wife’s beautiful appearance because of his discomfort with a birthmark she spots on her left cheek. His selfish desire to remove the birthmark from her, so that her beauty may be ‘complete’ and wholesome without the blemish of the birthmark on her cheek, makes Georgina acquiesce to a procedure to have the birthmark removed. Tragically, after the procedure, though the birthmark disappears, Georgina dies.
In the film “The Black Swan” directed by Darren Aronofsky, Nina struggles to fit into the ultimate role of the play “The Swan Lake”, as the Black Swan, even though she is comfortable playing the role of the White Swan. However, because she has to fit into both roles naturally, her attempts on perfecting the role of the black Swan lead her on a surreal journey of self-discovery, fights with her mother, drug abuse and her ultimate perfection of the two roles.
Thesis: The characters in the two short stories and film portray a sense of Gothic Romanticism through their various quests for idealism, perfection and personal and social freedom; their justification for seeking the various states of idealism; their intense emotional reactions and activities; and their detachment from reality through hallucinations and the surreal nature of their existence.
In both the short stories and film, the characters are in pursuit of an ideal state of freedom signified by attempting perfection. In Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart”, the narrator’s morbid craving for the freedom from the supposed wicked glare from the elderly man informs his desire to kill the elderly man.
In the narrator’s view, the elderly man is a sort of hindrance to his own peaceful and stress-free existence, and the narrator believes that by eliminating the elderly man, his life will be peaceful. In the narrator’s wicked and mentally unstable mind, a state of peace and serenity can only be achieved from the death of his ‘tormentor’, the old man, whose eyes the narrator feel stare at him in a way that makes his life miserable.
In Nathaniel Hawthorn’s “The Birthmark”, Aylmer is not satisfied with his wife’s physical beauty. Georgina is beautiful, comes across as an ideal wife because she is well behaved, a good homemaker, and supports her husband in all his endeavors. Ideally, Aylmer should be satisfied with such a wife. However, the small matter of the birthmark on his wife’s cheek makes him overlook all the positive attributes of his wife. Aylmer desires a higher state of perfection consistent with romanticism (Lalla 4).
He wants his wife to be ‘perfect’ without the blemish of the birthmark on her cheek. Persons who have interacted with Georgina find her beautiful. They accept her even with the birthmark, which they did not find offensive or off-putting. Many other men actually thought that the birthmark even served to enhance her exquisite looks. However, because her husband found the birthmark off-putting, Georgina herself begins to take a similar view.
In a desire to please her husband and satisfy his need to remove the birthmark, she accepts to take the concoction that would eliminate the birthmark, make their lives wholesome, and leave her with an ideal physical beauty without any blemishes.
Aylmer and Georgina thus seek a state of idealism characteristic of romanticism in their quest for physical perfection (Boutin 510). In their own wisdom, they refuse to accept the physical form that nature grants to Georgina, and seek to perfect her beauty.
In the film “The Black Swan”, Nina is also on a quest for perfection. Following her audition for the role of the Swan Queen, she fails to impress the director of the play. She however follows the director to plead her case, insisting that she is the best fit for the role of the Swan Queen.
Nina is willing to engage in affairs, abuse drugs and even upset her relationship with her mother in her zeal and endeavors to deliver a perfect performance as the Swan Queen. Her intense need and desire to deliver a virtuoso performance as the Swan Queen takes precedence over all other matters in her life.
Additionally, Romanticism stands out in the short stories and the film when all the major characters justify, or attempt to justify, their dissatisfaction with the current state of their lives. The characters refuse to accept the status quo, and thus aim to change their circumstances, sometimes at high cost (Bar-Yosef 150).
In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, the narrator refuses to accept the state of affairs whereby the elderly man exists and thus continues to torture him with his evil stare. The narrator elaborately and extensively plans the murder. He is willing to steal into the old man’s room at mid-night for eight consecutive nights in order to carry out his plan comprehensively without mishaps.
As far as the narrator is concerned, the elderly man is responsible for taking away his peace of mind, and he is thus willing to go to great lengths to carry out a successful murder that according to him will finally give him his peace of mind. Instead of waiting for nature to take its cause by having the old man die of natural causes, the narrator decides to take matters into his own hands and kills the elderly man. The narrator’s justification for this vile act is that the old man was a hindrance to his peaceful existence.
The narrator, possibly a servant of the old man, refuses to accept his servitude. He expresses his need for freedom by murdering his master, in the hope of gaining personal and psychological freedom that that the old man may have denied him. The old man represents an authority figure, and romanticism ideals abhor all forms of authority and promote personal freedom (Boutin 511).
In Nathaniel Hawthorn’s “The Birthmark”, Aylmer justifies the need for eliminating the birthmark on his wife’s cheek by stating that she would subsequently acquire perfect beauty. According to him, the birthmark prevents him from loving his wife in a wholesome manner. Aylmer confesses to believing in the power of man over nature, and transfers this belief onto his wife, who subsequently also believes that nature had been slightly unfair on her by placing the offensive birthmark on her.
Their justification thus stems from the belief that nature does not hold the ultimate destiny of a person, which is an idea prevalent in Romanticism (Boutin 513). Aylmer thus undertakes on an elaborate experiment in his vast laboratory in an attempt to concoct a portion that would eliminate the birthmark on Georgina’s cheek, and herald a new chapter in their lives, free from the worries of the birthmark.
In the film “The Black Swan”, Nina refuses to take less than a role as the Swan Queen. Since her mother had to discontinue with her career in order to give birth to her, Nina carries with her an ambitious drive to achieve more than her mother does as a dancer does.
When the play’s director Thomas Leroy tells her that another dancer, Lily, has the qualities to play the role that Nina desperately desires, she resolves to befriend Lily. Nina develops a friendship with Lily so that she may learn from her and perhaps acquire the characteristics to play the role of the White Swan as well as the Black Swan successfully.
Nina receives the news that her rigid nature is unsuitable for playing the role of the Black Swan, but she undertakes to train in loosening her rigidity in dance. Therefore, Nina refuses to accept the status quo that imposed by nature, where her rigid state reflects her personality. She successfully overcomes her natural condition to play the role of the black swan successfully.
Another feature of Romanticism in the two short stores and the film is the intensity of emotions involved in the decisions and choices that the characters make.
According to Vincent, Romanticism seems tied to fierce liberalism (610). In “The Tell-Tale Heart”, the narrator is intensely emotional in his quest to justify his intensions to murder the elderly man in the house, and the subsequent guilt that engulfs him also points to his massive psychological reaction to his actions. After killing the old man, the visit by the two officers unravels his sense of control over the whole affair.
Having convinced himself that he had committed the “perfect murder”, he soon begins to doubt his actions. While the officers were busy making small talk about things unrelated to the murder, the narrator begins to imagine that they are talking about him and that the officers were convinced he had killed the old man.
The more the officers talk, the more the narrator – consumed by his guilt – is convinced that the officers had discovered his crime. His sense of guilt multiplies and he finally crumbles, confessing his crime in a singular outburst. His guilt makes him believe that the old man’s heartbeat was still beating and that the officers were able to hear it.
Similarly, in the short story “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorn, Aylmer undergoes intense emotional upheavals as he tries to convince his wife to get rid of the birthmark. When Georgina eventually comes round, he is then faced with the prospect of coming up with a chemical that will effectively carry out his plans of eliminating the birthmark.
Georgina also undergoes intense emotional re-evaluation in the days leading up to her ‘operation’ to eliminate the birthmark. While she desires her husband to love her unconditionally (with the birthmark), the fact that he is uncomfortable with it makes her uncomfortable with it too. Their intense emotions come to a climactic end when, first Georgina, then Aylmer, realize that the portion she had taken was killing her.
After Nina fails to impress in her audition for a role as the Swan Queen, she immediately begins to do all within her efforts to assume that role. She subsequently fights a lot with her mother.
The strain of trying to be the best dancer takes a heavy emotional toll on her and she begins to abuse the drug ecstasy in order to find some sense of peace from her chaotic existence. Amidst all the intensity and emotions, she cries a lot, practices her role to perfection and engages in an affair with the director of the play. In the end, all the people she confronts in her quest for balance in her life applaud her performance in the end of the film.
Another feature of Romanticism found in the two short stories and the film is the depiction of acts and visions born out of hallucinations by the characters/actors, as well as portrayal of surreal existences. Klemm states that elements of death and hallucinations litter Romantic texts (625). In “The Tell-Tale Heart”, the narrator is an unreliable narrator.
His stream of thought clearly portrays him to be mentally unstable, and he seems to enjoy torturing the old man by sneaking to his room at night and leaving him frightened and guessing about whom or what might have entered his room at night. The narrator exists in his own self-created world where he sets his own rules and draws his own conclusions concerning the behavior of those around him.
He has irrationally convinced himself that the old man’s eyes portend evil for him. In Nathaniel Hawthorn’s “The Birthmark”, Aylmer creates his own rules about life that are quite different from those prevalent in his contemporary society. He believes that man has absolute control over nature, and he spends his time locked in his vast laboratories conducting experiments.
He is convinced that the birthmark on his wife is a mistake by nature that he intends to correct. Because he believes in his convictions, he leads a surreal life far removed from contemporary reality, and in the end, he looses his wife while she undergoes an unnecessary procedure to eliminate birthmark with which he is personally obsessed.
Finally, in the film “The Black Swan” Nina’s hallucinations drive her towards physical self-harm. Her drug use removes her from the reality of life and she begins to hallucinate and exist on an almost different sphere of reality – imagining sex scenes and fights with non-existent persons.
In conclusion, the two short stories and the film contain various elements of Gothic Romanticism. As discussed in the paper, the characters are involved in a search for personal and communal freedom and a sense of perfection and idealism in their lives. They are also apt to justify their various quests for idealism and freedom, and they are subjected to intense emotional episodes in their activities. They also undergo phases of hallucinations and occasionally exist in surreal states. All these are characteristic of Gothic Romanticism.
Bar-Yosef, Hamutal. Romanticism and decadence in the literature of the Hebrew revival. Comparative Literature 46.2 (1994): 146-157.
Boutin, Aimée. Shakespeare, Women, and French Romanticism. Modern Language Quarterly 65.4 (2004): 505-529.
Klemm, Frederick. The dead-hand motive as a phase of Gerhart Hauptmann’s romanticism. Modern Language Quarterly 2.4 (1941): 619-629.
Lalla, Barbara. Dungeons of the soul: Frustrated romanticism in eighteenth and nineteenth century literature of. MELUS 21.3 (1996): 3-15.
Vincent, Steven. Benjamin Constant, the French Revolution, and the Origins of French Romantic Liberalism. French Historical Studies 23.4 (2000): 607-621.
The Investigation of Ethical Issues in The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pond Essay
In a nutshell, ethics is a branch of philosophy that deals with human behavior and how people should live. Ethics deals with the capability to determine what is right or wrong. There are many ways to investigate ethics. There are many ways that can be used to determine if a decision made was the most ethical thing to do.
There are many ways that can be used to achieve that goal but an interesting method is to develop a short story to deal with ethical issues. This technique was used in the development of The Pond (Munro, 2000) and Tell-Tale Heart (Poe, 2004). These two stories examine the thoughts and feelings of someone who wanted to do something unethical.
In Munro’s The Pond there are at least three ethical issues. First of all, the heroine in the story contemplated suicide. She was always fascinated with death. She kept on talking about death in the same way that a person talks about their chauffeur that was about to fetch them. In other words she made people understand that at any moment the Angel of Death will come and whisk her away. Her morbid fascination with death graduated to suicidal thoughts when she married a man who did not share her interest in the spiritual realm.
Her husband pushed her to the breaking point because they had very little in common. She realized this problem a few days after her marriage. Their thoughts occupy different spheres. She was interested in the unseen while her husband was focused on the practical aspects of life.
He reasoned out that life has many troubles. His philosophy is supported by various events in his life as a farmer and businessman. He had to contend with different types of problems, from government related difficulties to pest control troubles in his farm.
His indifference towards his wife brings to the surface the second ethical issue. The secondary problem is related to an ethical dilemma with regards to the responsibility of the husband to provide and care for the family. It is an ethical dilemma because the husband is supposed to work hard in order to provide food, clothing and shelter for wife and children.
However, the wife and the children made demands beyond the scope of physical needs. They also demanded emotional fulfillment through the interactions in a husband and father relationship. The added demand is a problem because it requires time to take care of the farm and create a system that will yield a profit. However, it also requires time to establish an emotional connection with the family.
The problems at home brought to the surface the third ethical issue in the story. The other issue was not developed fully but it can be argued that the heroine of the story was so unhappy with the marriage that she wanted a way out. The conventional and legal way to break-up a marriage was not available to Mona and John.
If they lived in the big city, perhaps they could have availed of a legal remedy. But since they were in a rural area, marriage was expected to last for a lifetime and only death can separate them. It is the inability to find a solution to her predicament that led Mona to contemplate suicide. It has been made clear that these three different ethical dilemmas were all related to each other.
Munro investigated the ethical issues not by pointing out the best way to deal with the problem. The author presented the different aspects of the ethical issues and provides a framework for the reader to understand why it is called a dilemma. In other words, Munro found a way to examine the different components of the ethical problem to demonstrate that human beings are prone to these problems not because they are inherently bad, but because of the circumstances that they cannot control. Nevertheless, this does not suggest that suicide is an acceptable behavior. The moral of the story is that it is important to determine the underlying factors before judgment is made.
In Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart there are two major ethical issues. The first one is the desire to kill a person not because of self-defense but fear. The action of the killer is questioned because of the motive. In most societies, the murder of a person is acceptable only on one condition and that is self-defense. The ability to take away the life of another is so contemptible that it is justified to kill to prevent the murder of an innocent person. Therefore, there is no greater sin than to murder an innocent man.
In the Tell-Tale Heart the man’s obsession to murder his employer was not only despicable it can be considered as an act of lunacy. This impression comes early in the reading of the story that the narrator himself became defensive and stated that it is unfair to judge his mental state and compare it to those who belong to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. But there is no other explanation for his bazaar behavior. He was the one who divulged that he had no ill-feeling toward his victim.
It is interesting to point out that in the examination of the ethical dilemma faced by the murderer he had to find a justification for his action. Thus, the author wanted to demonstrate that those who are guilty will always have the burden to prove their case.
Those who have nothing to hide are not bothered by this need. But those who are guilty, the need to clarify their motives and the need to present the rationale for their action forced them to find someone who can empathize with them. It is illustrated in the story through the manic behavior of the killer.
The killer said that he was nervous and this confession reminds the reader that the business of taking away another person’s life is never going to be a pleasant experience. The author made it clear that a murderer is still a human being and subjected to the same emotional burdens that accompany an action that is considered barbaric in many cultures.
However, the author also illustrated the reason why a murderer continues with the plan even when confronted with vexed emotions and other factors that make it extremely difficult to carry out the plan.
In the story the author pointed out that the fear of being caught and the fear of legal repercussion is overpowered by the nagging feeling of discomfort that only the killer can understand. In this particular case, the killer feared the “eye” of the victim.
He was so frustrated and so uncomfortable every time the victim gazes at him. It created in him such a level of discomfort that the only way to relieve that pain and to correct the problem is to find a way to close the eye forever. There is no other option for him other than to take away the life of his employer.
The second ethical issue that was addressed in the story is the problem when it comes to covering up the crime. The negative feeling of covering up the deed is linked to the consequences if the perpetrator of the crime is apprehended by the authorities. The killer succeeded in eliminating what he believed was a threat to his well-being. However, the eradication of his employer will have no value if he is apprehended by the authorities. Thus, the same energy used to commit the crime was the same energy expended for the cover-up.
One can just imagine the stress and the anxiety that the killer felt as he worked overnight and overtime to conceal the crime. He said that he worked with the speed of the wind but he was able to accomplish all of that in silence. There is no need to elaborate how difficult it is to work without creating a sound.
Pulling out the planks from the floor in a normal manner is a tremendously difficult task. But if one will add another requirement, which is to remove the boards without creating a sound to alert the neighbor, it will require double effort. There is the need to apply strength to remove the board and another extra effort not to let any vibration or collision of objects in order to prevent unnecessary noise.
The author illustrated the difficulty felt by the murderer before the crime was committed and after the criminal act was brought to completion. The author did not only provide a way to present an ethical dilemma but also made it clear that the criminals suffer from the consequences of their actions. They suffer not only from the legal ramifications of their actions but also from the torment that they received from a conscience that bothers them continuously.
The secondary problem discussed in the story is the difficulty of covering up the crime. The killer experiences changes in demeanor as well as thought patterns. In this particular case, the killer was so distraught about the whole criminal act that he was forced to the brink of a mental breakdown. He tried to keep it under control. But when the investigators came to pay him a visit, everything was unraveled. He could no longer control his emotions and he began to see and hear things.
The author made it clear that guilt as a result of a non-resolution of an ethical dilemma or the violation of an ethical standard can result in unpleasant mental and emotional effects. The conscience of that person will continue to hound him until he can no longer deal with the consequences of his actions.
Ethical dilemmas were present in both stories. The main characters were faced with problems that made them emotionally and mentally unstable. Both authors attempted to point out that there is an underlying reason why a person is forced to commit a crime or to break a particular ethical standard. Munro and Poe did not develop a legal discourse in order to show the difference between acceptable and non-acceptable behavior.
They used a different strategy to investigate the ethical dilemmas in the story. They made it clear that an unacceptable behavior can make life difficult for the person. But indirectly, they were able to show that it is important to find out the reason behind an action because most of the time people are forced to violate an ethical standard to find relief to an emotional or mental struggle.
Munro, S. (2000). The pond. Web.
Poe, E. (2004). The tell-tale heart. Web.