Insanity in The Tell-Tale Heart

Edgar Allan Poe wrote the Gothic fiction short story The Tell-Tale Heart in 1843 at the age of thirty-four. This story is about the insanity-driven murder of an innocent old man. The story only contains six characters, three of which are police officers.

The story is told from the perspective of the murderer himself. It follows him through the events leading up to the murder, the act of the murder, and the events after the murder. As he narrates the story, he keeps trying to convince the reader of his sanity. The narrator sees no fault in his doings, and he claims to be a sane man on multiple occasions. Throughout the story, the reader learns the narrator is everything but sane. This is obvious by his obsessions with the old man and time. Edgar Allan Poe in The Tell-Tale Heart illustrates the effects of guilt, the fall into madness, and the realm of death to give us insight into the physical and emotional effects of insanity

Throughout The Tell-Tale Heart, Poe demonstrates guilt and its ties with insanity. Near the end of the short story, after the murder, the narrator says, Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!”. After the murder of the old man, the narrator thinks he can hear the old man’s heart beating beneath the floorboards where his body is stashed. However, it cannot be the old man’s heart, for his heart has stopped. In Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe, Daniel Hoffman says, Of course it was his own heart which the murderer heard beat (232). The narrator is dealing with guilt from the murder, and he does not even realize it. His heart is beating out of his chest, and his anxiety from the murder is catching up with him. His insanity has him so focused on the old dead man that he does not even consider the possibility that it could be his own heartbeat. The guilt has his emotions so troubled that it is having physical effects upon his own heart. In Eight American Authors: A Review of Research and Criticism Jay B. Hubbell states, the undercurrent of meaning is so strangely marked by conflicts of a very evident sort – between man and man, and between man and nature (32). Unable to handle the overwhelming heartbeat, the narrator confesses to the death of the old man. His external conflict of the narrator versus the old man leads to the internal conflict of man versus natural guilt. His guilt, along with his insanity, led to him admitting to the crime and ultimately getting in trouble.

Madness is often one of the biggest themes in Poe’s writings, much like it is in this one. This story, from the main begging all the way to the very end, conveys messages of falling into madness. The narrator is unstable in the beginning no doubt, but it only goes worse as the story goes on. His internal insanity leads to him physically acting upon it. In the opening line of the story, the narrator tells the reader, True! – Nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am! But why will you say that I am mad? (Poe 3). This opening line lets the reader know something is off with the narrator. Before telling the reader any information, he immediately proclaims that he is not calm, or as one might say, he’s fearful of everything. A sane person would not start off immediately claiming to be sane and asking why others say he is not. In the next few lines, the narrator says, Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? (Poe 3). In Edgar Allan Poe, Harold Bloom says, His denial of madness only intensifies the effect of his bizarre claim The opening words imply that we have provoked the speaker by asserting what he denies: far from being insane (52). Bloom, along with many others, see this opening paragraph as an immediate red flag of the narrator’s madness. Sadly, the madness only gets worse, and the narrator falls into it, eventually acting upon it. As the story goes on, readers see the narrator fall deeper into his insanity by physically killing an older man. While this is most definitely insane, it is not the worst part. The worst part would be the narrator obsession with the old man’s eye. Poe states in the story, He had the eye of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever (Poe 3). The narrator mentions this eye several times throughout the story, revealing his obsession with it. This eye leads to the narrator’s self-destruction. The emotional effects of insanity, more so the obsession with the eye, leads to the physical effect of killing the old, innocent man.

Like most of Poe’s works, one of the biggest focuses in The Tell-Tale Heart is death. However, it is more than just the death of the old man, although that it is a huge part of it. This story also focuses on the death of the narrator’s freedom and insanity. The old man dies at the hands of the narrator. Poe states, In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done (3). The narrator did not commit a gruesome murder, he simply smothered the man. But his motives behind this link back to his insanity. In The Tales of Poe (Modern Critical Interpretations), Harold Bloom states, The narrator is mad, or at least abnormal according to his own account He is doubly mad when he imagines he hears the pounding of the dead man’s heart (141). The narrator’s motives for killing are stated in the short story itself, but they are not real reasons for murder. This murder is purely due to the narrator’s insanity. Perhaps the narrator became obsessed with the thought of killing someone, or maybe he truly did not know what he was about to do. Either way, he completed the murder. He even went on to try and cover up the murder. Within the story, he says, I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye could have detected anything wrong (Poe 6). Not only was he obsessed with the murder, but he also became obsessed with the hiding of it. When speaking of the murder and the coverup, it is almost as if the narrator is proud of his doings. In Symbolisme from Poe to Mallarme; the Growth of a Myth when discussing Poe and his works, Joseph Chiara says the first is that what one may call vertical symbolism, that is to say the apprehension of the invisible world through the visible (97). Poe uses this specifically in The Tell-Tale Heart. He shows the invisible insanity through the visible murder. Not only does the narrator become physically obsessed with the murder by carrying it out, but he also becomes emotionally obsessed by being proud of it.

In conclusion, Edgar Allan Poe uses the story The Tell-Tale Heart to show readers the effects of guilt, the fall into madness, and the realm of death to give us insight into the physical and emotional effects of insanity. The narrator’s insanity is discernible through his actions and storytelling. Although the narrator seems calm at first, he ends up letting his guilt get the best of him and admits the murder of the old man. His guilt led to his demise in the end. Through the whole story, we see the narrator fall deeper and deeper into madness. He starts off with an obsession that leads to a murder. He then conceals the body but admits to the murder. This murder, the murder of an innocent old man, shows us just how truly mad the narrator is. In the end, the narrator’s insanity ended up taking a toll on him, both emotionally and physically.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. The Tales of Poe (Modern Critical Interpretations). Chelsea House Pub,


Bloom, Harold. Edgar Allan Poe. Chelsea House Publishers, 1999.

Chiari, Joseph. Symbolisme from Poe to Mallarme; the Growth of a Myth. Rockliff, 1956.

Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972.

Hubbell, Jay B. Eight American Authors: a Review of Research and Criticism. WW Norton &

Company, 1956.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings. Bantam Books, 2004.

Insanity and Mental Illness in The Tell-Tale Heart

Insanity is a mental problem typically characterized by various abnormal behaviors. This abnormality can contribute to the violation of conventional behavior in society making the victim become a possible threat to himself and others. Individuals who bear this habit tend to pass a certain message to others about themselves.

In Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, the reader will discover that the unnamed narrator of the story displays obvious signs of insanity and mental illness. The dictionary defines insanity as unsoundness or a derangement of the mind (Webster’s New Biographical Dictionary, 1983). The narrator can be characterized as insane by his or her actions, which are indeed abnormal. This paper will focus on the abnormal behaviors of the narrator including the consequences of his or her insanity.

First, Poe suggest the narrator is insane by his or her constant proclamation of sanity. For example, the narrator declares that because the murder of the old man was so carefully planned that he or she could not be insane. The narrator says, Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen how wisely I proceeded-with what caution-with what foresight-with what dissimulation I went to work (37). The narrator believes that if a murder is carefully planned the murderer is not insane. Also, the narrator claims that he or she suffers from over-acuteness of the senses. Concerning the sound of the old man’ beating heart, the narrator says, And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses?-now, I say, there came my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton (38). The narrator is likely imagining the sound, but claims he or she is hearing it because of sharp senses.

In the beginning of the story, the narrator seems to be very caring to the old man. The narrator has no bad intentions toward the old man apart from his eye, which resembled that of a vulture-a pale blue eye, with a film over it (Poe 37). The obsessive interest in the old man’s vulture-like eye forces the narrator to formulate a plan to murder the old man. The narrator confesses that the main reason for killing the old man was his eye: whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees-very gradually-I made up my mind to rid myself of the eye forever (34). The simple fact that the old man’s eye is the one single motivation to murder proves the narrator is so unstable mentally that he or she must search for rationalization to kill. In the narrator’s mind murder is rationalized with an unreasonable fear of the eye.

Throughout the story there is evidence and clues that suggest the narrator may be suffering from the mental illness schizophrenia. The narrator presents a few main behaviors that can be considered to be symptoms of schizophrenia, and one of them are the delusions he or she has during the story. For instance, an example of one of the narrator’s delusions is in the scene with the policeman. The narrator says, They heard!-they suspected!-they knew!-they were making a mockery of my horror (40)! The narrator is showing signs of referential delusions that happen when a person believes certain gestures or actions are specifically directed at them (American Psychiatric Association). Another clue is the hallucinations the narrator has throughout the story. These hallucinations are mostly auditory, which means the narrator perceives noises as being form the external world, when in reality they are only imaginations (American Psychiatric Association). It’s clear the narrator experiences this symptom when he or she says, It grew louder-louder-louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not (40). There is also the fact that it is physically impossible for someone to hear the beating heart of someone else without the proper equipment, so this noise was in the narrator’s head. The last main symptom of schizophrenia the narrator demonstrates is catatonic behaviors such as extreme muscle paralysis of the body and hyperactivity conduct. An example of this is in the scene when the old man is startled and wakes up, the narrator says, I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down (38). Another instance near the end of the story is when the narrator says, I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides [] I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards (40).

It is obvious that the narrator of The Tell-Tale Heart shows signs of having a mental illness, which could very well be schizophrenia. The narrator hallucinates when hearing things that are impossible to be heard, and demonstrates behaviors that can be described as catatonic. No matter how much the narrator tries to prove his or her sanity, most readers would view the narrator’s argument as insane because the murder of the old man is motiveless, but also because the narrator’s confession to the murder comes across as premeditated and heartless.

In contrast, some readers may make the argument that the narrator is actually sane after all. Some may say the narrator’s confidence in his ability to calculate and plan the murder shows sanity. Insane people are generally unsure of their actions, but the narrator’s determination and confidence does show a bit of sanity. Also, the narrator has every chance of getting away with the crime, but feels guilty for murdering the old man, which means the narrator must have a working conscience. The narrator also shows the ability to differentiate between right and wrong as shown in the story when the narrator takes care to dismember and hide the body. If the narrator is truly insane, he or she wouldn’t go through such lengths to avoid detention. An insane person would act purely on impulse, not attempt to conceal a crime, and not feel guilty about it. The narrator defies all these conventions.

In conclusion, The Tell-Tale Heart presents many points that proves its narrator is indeed insane. The narrator demonstrates the abnormal behaviors and symptoms of the mental illness schizophrenia. According to the evidence of the story the narrator is more insane than not. It is obvious to the reader of the story that the unnamed narrator offers unjustifiable reasons for his or her actions. The narrator descended into madness.

The Tell-Tale Heart: The Greatness of Insanity

Edgar Allan Poe, a worldwide renowned author, lived a short, yet otherworldly life, and made a prosperous living writing his iconic themes of horror, murder, and mystery, all recognized throughout his famous short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In Poe’s, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” he does not specifically characterize the narrator’s gender, contradicting the motive to kill and murder the old man. The reader assumes that the narrator is a male due to the violent tendencies displayed throughout the text, such as “dragging him to the floor, and pulling the heavy bed over him,” to the “dismembering of the corpse by cutting off the head and the arms and the legs” (Poe, 195, 196). The narrator acts upon their instincts and reveals that “he” has the desire to be dominant.

If the reader were to place this story from a feminist perspective, in this particular time frame, women were perceived and mistaken to be weak and unintelligent, in which the superiority of men has taken over them. In the story, the narrator “loved the old man,” which could resemble a woman’s gentle care and hospitality for him, but because of this “pale blue eye,” and these violent tendencies, she would be thought of to be plagued by this, and that “madmen” have absolutely nothing against the willpower of a woman’s insight to kill (Poe, 193). The whole plot took a total of eight nights for the narrator to finally decide to murder this old man, which if it was in a feminist point of view, a woman would thoroughly consider her decisions and make use of her time. Although Poe leaves the narrator’s gender unidentified, the perspective could be a combination of both the feminist and masculine point of view. The storyteller portrays both feminine and masculine qualities, seen in a quote from the story, “I knew what the old man felt,” which is the feminine side, “although I chuckled at heart,” which is the masculine side (Poe, 194).

In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the protagonists’ fear of the old man’s eye is the main reason as to what drove him to “dismember him and put him underneath the floorboard” (Poe, 196). The psychoanalytical perspective of the narrator reveals that he, or she, was not angry and had nothing to fear, which means that they were in rejection over the crime and had lost a sense of their unconscious mind. The story’s narrator had no valid reason to kill the old man except that he had “the eye of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it” and after he was dead, they soon realized that it was a mistake because they were not thinking clearly (Poe, 193). This explains the beating of the heart that grew louder and louder, showing his pure insanity and guilt of the crime that was committed.

Two literary elements found in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” is imagery and symbolism. Imagery is seen in the story because as the reader reads the text, he or she can visualize the multiple scenes of the narrator gently observing the old man every night and his pale blue eye, causing them to kill the old man because of his maniacal condition. This image of the eye helps the reader begin to understand what it is that really terrifies the narrator and what prompts him to get rid of it. Symbolism is also found in the story because of the eye depicting that it sees everything, which causes the narrator to be disturbed and tormented, explaining his insanity, and the heart, which represents the narrator’s guilt when they killed the old man. Both aspects are effective in the story because it gives the reader a narrower understanding of why the narrator planned to kill the old man.

Poe, growing up as a child, did not really understand the concept of life and death, which could have contributed to the narrator’s thinking that even if he had killed the old man, he would still come back to life. He thought that the eye was still alive and so was his heartbeat, which could have meant that the old man was still lingering around, even after he was brutally murdered. The narrator of the story was out of his mind and unreliable. Rather than being concerned with the murder or the consequences of their actions, the narrator is obsessed with proving their sanity, and obsession with this eye, leading to the death of the old man.

The Narrative Style and Structure of “The Tell-Tale Heart”

In the same way as other of Edgar Allan Poe’s different works, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a dull story published in 1843. This specific one spotlights on the occasions driving the demise of an old man, and the occasions thereafter. That is the nuts and bolts of it, yet there are numerous profound implications covered up in the three-page short story.

Poe utilizes procedures, for example, first-individual account, incongruity, and style to pull off a trustworthy feeling of suspicion. In this specific story, Poe chose to compose it in the main individual account. This system is utilized to get inside the primary character’s head and view his considerations and are regularly energizing. The narrator in the The Tell-Tale Heart is recounting the story on how he slaughtered the old man while arguing his mental stability In “The Tell-Tale Heart” Edgar Allan Poe develops tension by directing us through the obscurity that abides inside his character’s heart and psyche. Poe magnificently shows the subject of blame and its relationship to the narrator’s franticness. In this great gothic story, blame isn’t just present in the obstinately pulsating heart. It implies itself prior in the story through the old man’s eye and gradually assumes control over the subject without regret. Through his composition, Poe specifically ascribes the narrator’s blame to his powerlessness to concede his disease and offers his fixation on fanciful occasions – The eye’s capacity to see inside his spirit and the sound of a thumping heart-as conceivable reasons for the franticness that maladies him.

There are two physical settings in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”: the house the narrator imparts to the old man where the homicide happens and the area from which the narrator recounts his story, probably a jail or a refuge for the criminally crazy. Notwithstanding, the most vital setting for the story is inside the fixated brain of the narrator. The old man is not really more than the stink eye that so angers the narrator, the wellspring of his baffling fixation. Poe utilizes his words monetarily in The Tell-Tale Heart” it is one of his most brief stories”to give an investigation of neurosis and mental weakening. Poe strips the account of abundance detail as an approach to uplift the killer’s fixation on particular and unadorned substances: the old man’s eye, the heartbeat, and his very own case to rational soundness. Poe’s financial style and guided dialect in this manner contribute toward the story content, and maybe this relationship of frame and substance really epitomizes suspicion. Indeed, even Poe himself, similar to the pulsating heart, is complicit in the plot to get the narrator in his abhorrent diversion. the narrator can’t remember it for what it genuinely is, it is obvious to us that it must be the blame and regret he intuitively feels that unavoidably acquires him to turn himself. After all, he was totally free.

The police were fulfilled and he should have simply through a basic discussion with the end goal to escape with homicide. In any case, in his relatively ideal triumph over the high hand of the law, he hears a ringing in his ears, something that progressions the whole result of the circumstance. The ringing increments and increments until the point when he can never again take it, and in his mind, he flails wildly like a crazy person, however the police visit inertly by until the point that he shouts, “Lowlifes! mask no more! I concede the deed! – tear up the boards! here, here!”(Poe). He mix ups the ringing for the core of the dead old man, when actually it is the thumping of his own heart that he can’t get away. As an examination in suspicion, this story lights up the mental logical inconsistencies that add to a lethal profile. For instance, the narrator concedes, in the principal sentence, to being unpleasantly anxious, yet he can’t grasp why he ought to be thought distraught. He explains his self-protection against frenzy as far as an uplifted tangible limit. Dissimilar to the comparably anxious and extremely touchy Roderick Introduce “The Fall of the Place of Usher,” who concedes that he feels rationally unwell, the narrator of “Tell-Tale Heart” sees his excessive touchiness as confirmation of his mental stability, not a side effect of frenzy. This exceptional learning empowers the narrator to tell this story in an exact and finish way, and he utilizes the complex instruments of portrayal for the reasons for his own rational soundness request. In any case, what makes this narrator frantic”and most not at all like Poe”is that he neglects to fathom the coupling of account frame and substance.

He experts exact frame, yet he accidentally spreads out a story of homicide that deceives the franticness he needs to deny. another logical inconsistency fundamental to the story includes the strain between the narrator’s abilities for affection and abhor. Poe investigates here a mental secret”that individuals now and then mischief those whom they cherish or require in their lives. Poe looks at this Catch 22 50 years before Sigmund Freud made it the main idea in his speculations of the psyche. Poe’s storyteller cherishes the old man. He isn’t ravenous for the old man’s riches, nor wrathful due to any slight. The narrator in this way takes out thought processes that may typically move such a savage homicide. As he announces his own mental soundness, the narrator focuses on the old man’s vulture-eye. He decreases the old man to the light blue of his eye in fanatical form. He needs to isolate the man from his “Hostile stare” so he can save the man the weight of blame that he credits to the eye itself. The narrator neglects to see that the eye is the “I” of the old man, an innate piece of his character that can’t be secluded as the narrator unreasonably envisions. The old man’s eye is blue with a “film” or “cloak” covering it. This could be a medical condition, similar to a corneal ulcer, yet emblematically it implies that the characters have issues with their “internal vision”what’s generally known as one’s point of view toward the world. They are trapped. Everything is darkened for them. Our perusing of the story is in like manner sifted through this foggy eye, causing, in any event, some disarray and disappointment with the content. The eye additionally does some really peculiar stuff. It appears to be dull and unseeing yet, it has peculiar forces. It makes the storyteller’s blood run cool. It “chills] the specific marrow in [his] bones” (Poe).

In the wake of concealing the old man’s body, the narrator “replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eyenot even his [the old man’s]could have detected anything wrong” (Poe) Fascinating. That announcement suggests that sooner or later the eye could see covered up or mystery things. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” disturbs our forms of the real world, even as we relate to it in manners we might not have any desire to concede. Something flashes our interest and powers us to finish the storyteller the chilling labyrinth of his psyche. We hear the narrative of homicide through words and through his rendition of the real world. While the narrator is attempting to persuade the reader that he is rational he mentions that It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. (Poe) Fixation powers the narrator’s form of reality into a thin tube. On the off chance that the narrator was pondering imagining a remedy for growth or something, this limited focus may be something to be thankful for. Here, his variant of the truth is perilous to himself as well as other people. In conclusion from my examination of the narrator, i can argue that he appears to be really crazy and his reasons are entirely baseless. The main occurrence where his thinking could be viewed as support, would be if the old man’s eye was really abhorrent and posed a danger to his well being, however from my nearby examination of the story, it would appear the old man’s eye had no extraordinary power with the exception of in the psyche of the narrator. So despite the fact that I observe him be crazy and at last locate his thinking unjustified, I can now at long last comprehend why it was that he really perpetrated the wrongdoing.

The Tell-Tale Heart Analysis

The short story The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, starts with the narrator muttering to himself and the audience. The narrator begins to talk about the old man with a vulture’s eye (evil eye) who makes the narrator’s blood run cold. The narrator very gradually comes up with a plan to kill the old man.

The narrator kills the old man by suffocating him to death and ultimately ridding himself of the evil eye. Next, the narrator chops up the body of the old man and hides him in the floorboards of the house. The police end up at the old man’s house because a neighbor heard a shriek during the night-time and the police need to search the premises. The narrator is trying to stay calm, but he keeps hearing the heart-beat of the old man (even though he is dead) so ultimately, he can’t stand hearing the old man’s heart-beat any more, so he tells the police to Tear up the planks! “here, here! The narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart most likely suffers from Schizophrenia, which can be seen when the narrator has delusions, hallucinations, and exhibits mental instability. Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. The story ultimately deals with the narrator’s delusions and the narrator’s mind that is slowly unraveling and going mad.

Delusions are false beliefs that are not based in the real world and are one of the many symptoms of Schizophrenia (Schizophrenia). One place where the narrator suffers from a delusion is when he sees the old man’s eye. The narrator explains I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture “a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so, by degrees ” very gradually “I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever (Poe 68) In this example, the narrator is explaining that the old man’s evil eye is the sole reason for murder. This is another example of a delusion. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers “of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. (Poe,69) This is a delusion because of all the joy and craziness the narrator feels as the narrator watches the old man through the cracked door. With all these delusions the narrator is having, it is a sure sign the narrator has Schizophrenia.

Hallucinations involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. I felt that I must scream or die! -and now-again!-hark! louder! louder louder louder!- (Poe,72) This example is saying the narrator is hearing the heart-beat of a dead man which is a hallucination.

This is another example in which the narrator is having the same hallucination as earlier. It was a low, dull, quick sound “much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton and yet the officers heard it not (Poe,72). In fact, the old man is dead, and the narrator is suffering from an auditory hallucination. The officers do not hear the sound either, further confirming the narrator’s delusion. Basically, all the examples of the old man’s heart beating even when the old man is dead are all examples of hallucinations.

The narrator is suffering from a hallucination and he starts the story, he is saying this as a preface before we hear what really happened that night which is why he explains Why will you say 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 heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Harken! and observe how healthily”how calmly”I can tell you the whole story. (Poe,68.) The narrator is crazy here which is what mental instability means. The narrator is so crazy, the narrator thinks to tell the story of the old man’s killing to prove he isn’t crazy. In doing this, he is crazy to think the audience will believe him and not think he is a lunatic and a nut-case. Another case where he displays mental instability is when he is talking about Death, in approaching him, had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel. (Poe 70). This is an obsession with death which in turn leads to mental instability.

In this story, the narrator is clearly dealing with Schizophrenia and I have shown you 3 symptoms to display the fact that he does have Schizophrenia.

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Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Tell-Tale Heart. The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp.68-72.

Schizophrenia. Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2018, 1 November 2018.

Obsession in “The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe

If your like the rest of us humans, you must have felt so guilty about a situation that you had to divulge about what you did. Edgar Allan Poe, American writer and poet, illustrates in his story The Tell-Tale Heart, how an obsession can drive you to do things that you will only regret in the long run. He then portrays how one’s guilt can ultimately lead to a lack of consciousness therefore pressuring them into confession.

Poe shows us that there are many themes throughout his story, but he focuses on three particular ones that can reveal his message: the idea of burial/covering, guilt/consciousness, and obsessions.

The first and foremost theme that Poe illustrates in his story is this idea of obsession. As we all know, an obsession is a thought that preoccupies or intrudes a person’s mind and controls it. In the story, the narrator; a man who lives in the same apartment as the old man, shows his obsession with the old man’s eye by comparing the eye to the eye of a vulture the ones that prey on dead animals and eat it (Poe 41). He explains what he thinks of the eye, and how it makes him feel. He felt as though the eye was evil and that he needed to get rid of it. In his mind, he compares the eye of the old man to the eye of a vulture because he feels like the eye can see through his illness and see inside his conscious. It’s almost as if he’s giving an excuse to kill the old man because of his eye just to cover up his own guilt or identity (his true self). The narrator reveals his obsession with the eye by stating Only that eye, that hard blue eye, and the blood in my body became like ice: he’s so focused and obsessed with how the eye looks, that he doesn’t try making sense of the real reason he wants to kill the old man (Poe 41). His obsession is so clear and taking over his conscious that everytime he thinks of the eye or sees it, his body has a reaction.

Along with the theme of obsession, Poe illustrates the theme of burial with a motif of covering. Both are connected because the narrator’s obsession drives him to kill the old man, and afterwards he wants to ‘bury and cover’ the body of the old man where no one could find it(Poe 44). As the narrator cuts up the body pieces he is carefully removing the floorboards and placed them in there so no human eye can suspect a thing (Poe 44). This theme of burial has a huge significance in the story because it shows how he planned everything out and buried all of the evidence to not be caught. Poe shows us the motif of covering through the theme of burial. He is not only covering the body up but it’s how he kills the old man. I fell upon him and held the bed covers TIGHTLY over his head: the narrator states as he’s killing the old man (Poe 43). This idea of covering applies to the way he kills the old man because he is covering his face, he is covering his eye but he is also covering something else. The covering relates to the stories use of the eye and sight to mean; discovery of secret sin. He is secretly burying his own heart because he is trying to cover up his madness/illness. This is a big repression and the main burial.

Connecting both themes of obsession and burial, the third theme that is portrayed for us is the theme of guilt or consciousness. Throughout the story the narrator is fighting between his conscious vs his guilt. Before he kills the old man he speaks of the beating of the old man’s heart and how he continued to hear it until he finally killed him but at last the beating stopped: or so he thought it stopped because he was dead (Poe 43). In the story, the narrator is actually hearing the beating of his own heart and his conscious trying to convince him not to follow through with his obsession. This beating of his own heart is a way of his guilty conscious catching up to him and making him realize that he has done something awful. His guilt is so overpowered that even after he kills the old man he believes he can still hear it because when the cops showed up and completed their search, he says how the sound, became louder and he became frustrated with the fact that the police officers could not hear this loud sound. This conveys that the entire time he was not hearing the old man’s heart, he was in fact hearing his own nervous heart beats. This beating ultimately drives him insane and causes him to confess that he had murdered the old man to the police. He figured that they already knew he had killed them because the sound was too loud but they didn’t know. The sound was too loud for him because it was his guilt eating at his conscious and making him finally face the truth of what he did.

All of the essential themes that Poe has illustrated throughout the story, all connect to one another because the narrator’s obsession: the old man’s eye, drives him to kill and bury the body/heart, and causes a conflict between his guilt and his subconscious. Throughout the story, Edgar Allan Poe is trying to convey the message of in denial and acceptance. He wants us to see through the themes of burial, obsession and guilt and see how one’s subconscious can ultimately eat us alive if we don’t face what we did and accept what our mistakes are. In the story, the narrator isn’t trying to cover up the murder, he is trying to cover up his illness and who he really is from himself because he cannot face the truth and it is a forbidden sin.

The Narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart

I have been reading The Tell- Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe, published in 1850. When I first read Tell-Tale Heart, my very first thought was this man is insane. He states that he killed an old man, he did not kill this old man because he pissed him off or because he wanted his money, he states that he loved this man and he never has done any harm to him.

He states that he killed this old man because he was bothered by his eye. There are a lot of metaphors that are used in this short story, and the metaphors that the man uses really sticks out at me and makes the story very detailed. To better explain the story, the old man talks about how he killed this man and hid the body under the floor boards in his house. The story doesn’t state this, but I assume that the story is being told in an insane asylum. I believe this because he shows signs of being an insane man that cannot function in society like a normal man. He states in the passage, it is impossible to say how the first idea entered my brain; but once convinced, it haunted me day and night (Poe, 1850). He states right after that Passion there was none (Poe, 1850).

That is clearly stating that this man has no apologizes for his actions for killing this man. Also, towards the end of the story he discusses how he was caught, leaving us to believe that he was found insane and is serving time in a mental institution. He gives evidence the whole story as to why he believes he is in fact not insane, and he had good reasoning as to why he killed this man. He states that I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever (Poe, 1850)., explaining that there was valid reasoning as to why he killed this man. He also states to give evidence that he is not insane, How, then, am I mad? Hearken, and observe how healthy, how calmly I can tell you the story (Poe, 1850). He gives a lot of evidence but in reality, killing a man and then hiding him under the floor boards like a dead animal is a strong indicator of an insane person. He also brags how previously he planned out this murder, and how goodly he planned this murder. He states that he watched the man sleep every night for seven nights straight planning how he would commit this murder. On the seventh night, he was watching the old man sleep when he mistakenly dropped a lantern that made a sound and woke the old man. He waited an hour, but the old man was still up and not going to sleep in fear someone was at his house.

He waited for his time and killed the man quickly and quietly. He never talks about if he used something to kill the old man with or if he just killed him with his bare hands. He stated that when he killed the old man, it shut his eye and it would never have to bother him no more. After he killed the man, he said that he took the corpse in a quiet manner, brought him to the basement and cut off his legs, arms and head so he would fit in the floor boards. He brags again how much thought and planning went into hiding the body. He said that when he picked up the floor boards and put the body in there, he picked up just 3 floor boards, and placed the body so carefully and in a way that could never be possibly heard or detected. After the body was in the floor boards, he brags how nicely he put everything back together, in a way that any human eye, even his could not be detected. As you read more and more of this story, you began to ask yourself, or at least I asked myself repeatedly, did this old man that was killed really have a bad eye or was the narrator, the man that killed him, just insane and his eye was completely normal?

Analysis of Tell tale heart

Humans perception on reality is very much varied. All of us are placed into specific lifestyles that end up playing a huge role on whom we become. Which makes every individual different therefore no one is the same.

But each go through inner conflicts by themselves. Ginsberg noticed in the 1950’s that across our country each human goes through various amounts of conflicts and insanity’s. The events that takes place in a person’s life correlate to how one may become. In Ginsberg’s Howl it’s expressed that no matter how long or tough the road of life is, no one has to do it alone, and also there are many ways to find peace within ourselves to be able to get through the chapters of life.

Names create an identity, and an identity is forged through experience. We all see the world through different lenses, and this is what leads to our perception of reality. There are problems that arise in our everyday lives, and the question often asked is who is affected. Who is the who? In part one of Howl, Allen Ginsberg emphasizes that the who is the everyday man. From the looks of what Ginsberg experienced and written down as a poem, the 1950’s generation seems dismal. The who represents people that are struggling to make a living such as those wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music (line 48). These people abhor their current situation and to further show their disgruntled outlook on the lives they are living, they own push carts that have onions and bad music. We can also see that the who is desperate. Many people would do whatever it takes to make the dream of a high life come true, such as those plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg (line 52). Ginsberg is metaphorically speaking in this line, as the egg could represent the limited opportunities that were given during this time period. Searching for such a rarity is much like finding a needle in a haystack.

The 1950’s was seen as a ballad, demonstrating that everyone was born to be wild through Ginsberg’s point of view. As an example, they went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars (line 43). Allen Ginsberg also gives us a picture of the carefree lifestyle the younger generation had during this time period such as going to moviehouses’ rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves (line 43). There is a chasm that divides the youth from the old. The old is concerned for the future, while the young, in a way, is given carte blanche. Only the young can enjoy life even though they are somewhat oblivious to what is going on in the world. The 1950’s saw its share of the tale of two cities. One where a carefree life is lived and the other where there is turmoil. In part I, the who is also those that fear the worse to come, as created suicidal dramas on the apartment cliff-bank of the Hudson under the wartime blue flood light of the moon (line 46). Peace appears to be the last thing on everyone’s mind since war could escalate between the two super nations during this time. Maybe by doing what seems like haphazard activities allow people to indirectly express themselves, thereby giving acceptance to the daily grind they must go through.

People tend to find reasons to justify why certain things happen, and often this is done by using a scapegoat. In part II of Howl, Ginsberg depicts adversity as Moloch, a god that children are sacrificed to. Moloch is seen as the institution in which society is surrendered under. Moloch is the head games, as Ginsberg states that Moloch whose name is the Mind! (line 85), and that our view of reality is a reflection of how the mind perceives the surroundings.

Ginsberg angrily blames Moloch for being the inner demon that resides within him, as entered my soul early! (line 87). This line could refer to the way how he was borninstitutionalized. Ginsberg further shows antipathy towards Moloch as the reason he is a consciousness without a body who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! (line 87). In addition, because he is under Moloch’s oppression, Ginsberg figuratively casts away his own values and himself as an individual down the American river! (line 90). He is saying to give up being a human being to become pure machinery (line 83) that does what it is supposed to do. We unknowingly became enslaved under Moloch since he is the sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open skulls and ate up brains and imagination (line 79). Ginsberg tells us that we have eyes are a thousand blind windows (line 84), meaning that we are unknowingly brainwashed into doing the tasks created by Moloch. In a way, Ginsberg allowed himself to regain peace of mind by rambling on about a deity being in every aspect of his life. His emotions are not bottled up, and the way he is able to let go is through his poems, particularly within Howl.

In part III and the footnote of Howl, the tone of the poem takes a 180 degree turnaround. There are no obscure intellectual rants about Moloch and what is going on in America which happened in parts I and II. Ginsberg in a way starts to mellow out and began to accept reality as it is. Furthermore, he realizes that he is not alone in coping with the everyday drudgery of life itself. He starts by earnestly telling his friend Carl Solomon that I’m with you in Rockland (line 94). Ginsberg met Solomon in Columbia Presbyterian Psychiatric Institute, where Solomon was treated there for depression with insulin shock (Charters par. 7). There was a common ground between the two, both men were great writers on the same dreadful typewriter (line 99), as well as being among twenty-five-thousand mad comrades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale (line 109). Ginsberg’s mother was admitted to many psychiatric wards and eventually passed away in one; Solomon becomes a comfort for Ginsberg as he saw the shade of my mother (line 96). The tight bond shared between the two allowed them to get through hell-on-earth experiences such as going through fifty more shocks (line 106). Ginsberg and Solomon’s friendship gave both men internal peace to ward off the destruction of the outer world.

The footnotes relay the word holy beyond redundancy. However, this is where the idea of what we originally thought of sacredness is altered. Instead of pureness, Ginsberg is all for derogatory and adulterated values that often society frowns down upon such as nakedness, where The skin is holy! (line 114). Everything that society views negatively, Ginsberg turns the other cheek. Additionally, Ginsberg satirically uses the word holy as a means of accepting the fact that one man alone cannot buck the system also known as Moloch the institution. Instead of trying to change society, he searches for the good, the Angel in Moloch! (line 124).

Gaining a sense of peace seems very difficult during the 1950’s. It appears that in order to have a sense of tranquility in one’s life, external factors influence the internal, not the other way around. Often as a society, we aim for a quick-fix to dealing with our problems. We might use alcohol or drugs to temporarily null the situation, but not necessarily the smartest way to go about doing so. For Ginsberg, to gain a peace of mind was to write down unorthodox poems. This was his way of dealing with the head games that life plays with him.

The Narrative Style & Structure of “The Tell-Tale Heart”

An unstable narrator is tortured, and when he can no longer take it and has reached the breaking point, the man murders his master. This is the out-of-control conflict created in Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story, Tell-Tale Heart. The short story is published in 1843 and gives a better understanding of what an insane person is capable of.

Edgar Allan Poe focuses part of his literature on the genre of horror to force many to take it more serious than otherwise would have (Poe-land 9). To elaborate, after reading The tell-tale heart someone would consider guilt as part of the aftermath or murder that they would not have before. Many people with mental illnesses refuse to seek treatment or are not aware of their illness. In The Tell-Tale Heart the narrator tries to convince the reader that he is not insane by explaining why he murdered his master. The narrator has both external and internal conflicts in this short story. External conflicts that the narrator faces are the eye and police, and the internal conflicts are the beating heart and his denial of insanity. Conflict is the most important narrative element in The Tell-Tale Heart, because it shows the internal battle of the narrator, the way he is trying to assimilate what has happened while dealing with his psychotic break, conveying the final event and how he is still human and finally breaking when he is being questioned by the police, and feels as though they are making fun of him.

What the narrator seems to be experiencing is a type of Stockholm syndrome, which means that after having lived such a traumatic experience in order to survive the victim develops feelings or an emotional bond with the captor, There was no reason for what I did. I did not hate the old man; I even loved him. He had never hurt me (Poe). According to Good Therapy, A person who develops Stockholm syndrome often experiences symptoms of posttraumatic stress: nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, confusion, and difficulty trusting others (Stockholm). After having some realizations, the narrator has reached his breaking point, in which his psychosis starts to make him delirious and want to break free, When the old man looked at me with his vulture eye a cold feeling went up and down my back; even my blood became cold. And so, I finally decided I had to kill the old man and close that eye forever (Poe). This starts the internal conflicts within the narrator, since he claims he loves his captor but says he sees evil in his eye and is starting to see and hear things, all revolving around the evil eye that wouldn’t leave him alone. In order to deal with his plan, the narrator is trying to find small gestures of affection to make it seem like he is still sane and capable of reasoning. By doing so, he needs to have constant reminders for himself, So, you think that I am mad? A madman cannot plan. But you should have seen me (Poe). He started to find reasoning for planning the murder, his mind was playing tricks on him by telling him he wasn’t trying to kill the old man rather than kill of his eye which was full of evil, Always the eye was closed, so it was impossible for me to do the work. For it was not the old man I felt I had to kill; it was the eye, his Evil Eye. And every morning I went to his room, and with a warm, friendly voice I asked him how he had slept. He could not guess that every night, just at twelve, I looked in at him as he slept. The eighth night I was more than usually careful as I opened the door. The hands of a clock move more quickly than did my hand. Never before had I felt so strongly my own power; I was now sure of success. At this point, he has gone through with his plan, and he sees this as motive to be okay when the police arrive, because he is confident that he did nothing wrong, that is until he starts to realize the actual magnitude of his actions.

Once he heard the last beat of the man’s heart, he proceeded to dismember him and hide his body, until he realized that the old man’s dying wails awoke neighbors encouraging them to call the police, I asked the policemen to come in. The cry, I said, was my own, in a dream. The old man, I said, was away; he had gone to visit a friend in the country. I took them through the whole house, telling them to search it all, to search well. I led them finally into the old man’s bedroom. As if playing a game with them I asked them to sit down and talk for a while (Poe). Right now, the narrator is beginning to assimilate the fact that he just murdered someone, and will slowly begin to unravel, And the sound, too, became louder. It was a quick, low, soft sound, like the sound of a clock heard through a wall, a sound I knew well. Louder it became, and louder. Why did the men not go? Louder, louder. I stood up and walked quickly around the room. I pushed my chair across the floor to make more noise, to cover that terrible sound. I talked even louder. And still the men sat and talked and smiled. Was it possible that they could not hear?? No! They heard! I was certain of it. They knew! Now it was they who were playing a game with me. I was suffering more than I could bear, from their smiles, and from that sound (Poe). The narrator is now experiencing another emotional break, he physically heard the old man’s heart stop beating but as the polices officers prolonged their stay he eventually starts to get nervous which is why he believes he is hearing his heartbeat through the walls, his delusions furthermore make him believe the officers too hear it, but won’t say anything for the simple reason that they are trying to play mind games with him.

Overall, Poe’s short-story, The Tell-Tale Heart, is the gruesome narration of a man murdering his captor but strikes up conflict within himself, as he cannot be real to himself and admit he hated the old man, in his mind he believes he loved him but felt compelled that the evil in him was starting to drive him crazy. To furthermore expose his psychosis, he believes his delusions are real, he thinks he is hearing the old man’s heart, bringing him to his final breaking point and confessing to the police. This conflict is what makes the story and makes it so essential due to the intensity and pulls in together all the opposite aspects of the narrator’s mind.

Literary Analysis of Tell tale heart

Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale heart illustrates that guilt is a powerful motivating factor behind an individual’s actions. Symbolism, tone, and the content of the short story all interact with one another and work together to create certain effects and meanings within the short story. This short story shows how guilt can overwhelm and conquer the mind, which in turn led to the confession of the homicide the narrator committed and revealed at the end of the story.

Poe describes the main characters thoughts and actions and the effect that his mental instability has on it. The author shows how large a role the human psyche can play when under duress, as well as how much guilt can drive our actions. Without the teamwork and utilization of symbolism, tone and the series of unfortunate events within this piece, the short story would be ineffective and uninteresting to readers.

The symbolism in the story works together with content to give meaning to this piece of literature. The symbolism described offers an image to create an effect for the audience. In the beginning of the story, the narrator visits the old man every night at midnight to watch him sleep. He enters the old man’s room with a lantern to shine light on the old man’s vulture like eye. The eye represents the old man’s soul. The main character believes that the Evil Eye has power to curse him and it gives him anxiety. The feeling of uneasiness the speaker gets from the old man’s eye causes him to murder the old man. The other symbol that is presented in the story is the beating heart. After he buried the body under the floor boards, the police officers came to the house. When speaking with them he heard the beating heart of the victim he slaughtered and dismembered. The beating of the heart gradually grew louder and drove him insane. He could not bear the sound of the beating heart any longer and confessed his wrong doings to the officers. The beating heart exemplifies guilt and how powerful it can be against the human mind. The Symbolism introduces the audience to the concept of the narrator’s insanity and sense of guilt for murdering the old man.

The tone affects the story and allows the readers to comprehend the mood and emotion behind it. I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctnessall dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones (Poe 1) sets the tone in this piece of writing. The tone is somber, and anxious. The poem describes the narrator and his obsession of the old man’s eye and the slaughtering of the man; then his sanity changing and confessing the homicide of the innocent man. All of these elements combined make for a short story is eerie, dark and unsettling. Poe creates suspense and tension leading up to the murder of the innocent old man by allowing us to experience the narrator’s own anxiety throughout the story. The anxiety derived from the feeling the narrator got when looking at the old man’s pale light blue filmed covered eye and ended with the uneasiness from the guilt subsequent to the tragic homicide of the old man. The eerie tone influences the poem and grants readers a better understanding of emotion and the mood by the authors word choice and content.

The content and conflict give meaning to the poem and affect how the audience interprets it. In Tell Tale Heart the main character tells the short story in his perspective. First person gives the audience a direct connection to the speaker’s deepest inner thoughts and emotions that character experiences. This creates a relationship between the readers and the speaker as a result, the readers can understand this unreliable first-person narrator. Due to his insanity, the audience are unable to know whether the information he provides is accurate. The inner conflict the main character has is his denial in his madness, the feelings he acknowledges and the guilt that engulfs him and makes him. The content and inner conflict of the narrator affects the story and gives meaning to it, this in turn helps the reader interpret Poe’s meaning.

Tell Tale heart by Edgar Allen Poe, expresses that guilt is a powerful motivating factor behind a human’s actions. Symbolism, tone, and the content of the poem all work together to create certain effects interpretations and meanings in the poem. This short story highlights that guilt overcomes the narrators mind and leads to the main characters confession of the crime he committed at the end of the story. The author portrays the main character and the impermanence of life through nature and her leaves with the colors changing due to the different stages of life. Poe expresses nature’s beauty and the effect that time has on it. Without the partnership and use of tone, symbolism and the tragic events, the short story would be ineffective and meaningless to the audience.