The Tell-Tale Heart
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.
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Poe Research Paper
The short story The Tell-Tale Heart written by Edgar Allan Poe explores the experiences of a person who is overwhelmed by guilt. The author describes the emotions of a person who has committed a murder. His attempts to conceal the crime occupy a central place in this literary work. Overall, the writer shows that guilt deprives a person of his/her rationality and ability to perceive reality in an objective way. Moreover, this feeling often provokes a person’s fear that cannot be explained in any way.
This is the main thesis that should be discussed. This goal is achieved with the help of various literary elements such as character development, setting, imagery, tone, and symbolism. These elements are important for understanding the peculiarities of a literary work (Roberts and Zweig 465).
First of all, one should focus on the main character. One can see that this person presents a conflicting account of the main events. For instance, at the beginning, he says, “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult” (Poe 110). Yet, the narrator does not explain why he decides to murder the old man.
Moreover, one can say that the main character becomes hypersensitive. It seems to him that he can hear virtually every sound “in the heaven and in the earth” (Poe 110). Overall, people, who are overwhelmed by guilt and anxiety, often become very hypersensitive (Adler 97). This is one of the issues that can be distinguished.
Much attention should be paid to the point of view chosen by the author. He relies on the unreliable first-person narration. This technique helps the readers look at the events through the eyes of this individual.
It is possible to see that this person is unable to see the distinctions between imagination and reality. Additionally, the setting of the short story is not specified. The readers do not know when or where the action takes place. In this way, Edgar Poe wants to demonstrate that such experiences may be familiar to people who may represent various cultures.
Moreover, it is important to speak about the use of visual imagery. To a great extent, it is supposed to show that the main character cannot fully retain his sanity (Bloom 174). For example, while describing the old man, the narrator uses such a metaphor as “vulture eye” (Poe 112).
Edgar Poe uses this epithet to illustrate the irrational fear of the narrator. Moreover, one can mention such an image as “hideous heart” which continues to beat even after the death of the old man (Poe 113). This metaphor is necessary to show that the feeling of guilt distorts his perception of reality. Furthermore, this figurative language enables to show that the narrator’s tone is full of paranoia (Scott 166).
Finally, it is vital to speak about the symbolism of this short story. Edgar Poe focuses on the image of a heart which symbolizes the narrator’s guilt or his conscience (Einhorn 7). The main character wants to destroy it, but he fails to achieve this goal. This is one of the details that can be distinguished.
Overall, the discussion shows that Edgar Poe is able to able to make sure that various literary elements serve a single purpose. The behavior of the main character, narration, imagery, and symbolism are used to show how paranoia and guilt can transform the behavior of a person and his/she worldview. In this case, one should speak about the distorted perception of reality and increased sensitivity.
Adler, Alfred. The Collected Clinical Works of Alfred Adler: Journal articles: 1898 – 1909, New York: Alfred Adler Institute, 2002. Print.
Bloom, Harold. Edgar Allan Poe’s the Tell-tale Heart and Other Stories, Boston: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.
Einhorn, Anja. Perverseness in Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart and Black Cat, New York: GRIN Verlag, 2002. Print.
Poe, Edgar. The Best Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe, New York Digireads.com Publishing, 2010. Print.
Roberts, Edgar, and Robert Zweig. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing,Compact Edition (5th Edition). London: Longman, 2011. Print.
Scott, Jess. Porcelain, Boston: Jessink, 2010.
Literary Criticism of Edgar Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart from a Psychological Approach Term Paper
The Tell-Tale Heart is one of the most famous works by Edgar Poe. The outstanding character in the tale, who is also the narrator, attracts a lot of attention from the readers. The character reveals much about human nature and other self qualities that people tend to overlook.
Themes of death, egoism, and evil are found in most of Poe’s works. The same case applies to The Tell-Tale Heart as evidenced by the analysis in this paper. The analysis focuses on the main character and narrator of The Tell-Tale Heart. The analysis is conducted from a psychological approach.
There are various forms of literary psychological criticism. In this paper, the author uses the Freudian psychological approach to analyse Poe’s work. The narrator forms the basis of the tale. All the themes in the story revolve around them.
The literary critique explores the themes of death, ego, and evil as reflected in Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. The themes of ego and evil are featured prominently in this critical review.
The two contribute immensely to the narrator’s actions. The literary criticism of the tale seeks to answer the question of human ego-evil relationship and associated psychological justifications. Freud’s psychological approach serves in analysing the narrator’s actions towards the old man.
Summary of the Story
Edgar Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart tale adopts the first person perspective. The main character also assumes the role of the narrator. He begins the story by arguing that they are sane and not mad as people are saying.
The narrator says, “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” (Poe par. 1). However, Poe does not tell the reader whether the narrator is a male or a female. The usage of the connotation ‘He’ does not describe definite gender of the narrator, but just as an assumption.
The narrator admits that they are sick. However, they insist that the disease has sharpened their senses. The disease has not made them mad. In a bid to prove their sanity to the audience, the narrator embarks on the story. The events told in the story take place in a house where the narrator lives with an old man as a companion. The narrator claims that they loved the old companion very much.
As such, they did not have any reason or desire to kill him, not even for his money. The narrator reveals that they loved the old man. They were in good terms with the old man, and the narrator was not interested in stealing from him (Poe par. 2).
However, it appears that the old man had a deformed eye that instigated the narrator to commit the murder. In fact, if it were not for the eye, the story would have been very different. It follows then that the narrator has a motive to kill the old man.
Consequently, they scheme on how to execute the heinous crime. For seven consecutive nights, they stalked the companion throughout. They went to the extent of intensifying their affection for him to keep him close. On the eighth night, an opportunity presented itself and the narrator killed the old man.
The act of murder execution proceeds with extreme caution and the body concealment. However, a last minute shriek by the old man, or probably the excited yell of the narrator, changed the events. The arrival of police officers to the scene immediately after the crime attests to this.
The police arrived to a warm welcome from the narrator. Their arrival, they attribute to a scream they had been alerted to having emanated from the house. The police search the entire building but find nothing. Eventually, the narrator invited the two police officers into the deceased old man’s bedroom for a chat.
While there, however, the narrator imagined hearing the old man’s heartbeat. The heartbeat got louder and louder as the narrator and the two police officers chatted away in the bedroom. Finally, the imaginary noise freaked the narrator out. Eventually admits to having killed the old man, and in proof of his crime shows the police officers where he hid the dismembered body.
Major Literary Components in the Story The Tell-Tale Heart
Plot: Psychological Journey
Poe adopts a very interesting approach in writing the story. The main character, who also performs the heinous murderous act, tells the story. As a result, we assume the story is a confession. The confession is evident given that even the narrator insists they can prove their sanity to the audience.
The location of the story remains unclear. However, an analysis of the story creates the impression that the location is a courtroom. Such an assumption looks fair given that the court could have declared the narrator to be of unsound mind. The story ends with the narrator revealing to the police officers where he hid the body. As such, it is likely that they are making the confession while under arrest.
Themes in the Story
Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart story is riddled with a number of themes. The numbers of themes vary depending on the analytical approach chosen to review the story. As already indicated, the current analysis relies on the psychological approach of literary critique. Hence, from the perspective of this approach, it appears that several themes are apparent in the story.
The main themes in the story include ego, murder, evil, obsession, insanity, and guilt. Others include reality viewpoints, justification, time, and cleverness. The themes of evil, ego, murder and insanity are very dominant in the story.
From the start of the story, the narrator insists on being sane. Consequently, the narrator details their heinous crime to prove their sanity. Even after the detailed narration, the narrator still insists on their sanity. They insist that they took a lot of precautions to cover their tracks, something that can only be done by a sane man (Poe par. 8).
In a number of instances, the narrator reminds the audience how cleverly they executed the murder. The assertion is evident when they claim, “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!” (Poe par. 3).
Despite the frantic effort to convince his sanity, the narrator falls under Freud’s psychic zone of id. The id zone has a number of distinct characteristics. It is characterised by an excitement that is disorganized and lacks will. It is an impulsive drive that is aimed at satisfying the instincts and pleasures of the individual (Freud 103).
About the theme of murder, the narrator’s motive is amusing, if not ridiculous. The ‘admitted motive’ is evident when the narrator says that the old man had the eye of a vulture. They describe it as “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 par. 2).
The execution of the heinous crime is almost perfect. The narrator leaves no trace behind. However, their confession raises doubts about their sanity. It is clear that the narrator is a ruthless murderer, considering how they killed and dismembered the old man’s body for concealment.
The theme of obsession, and in some part that of guilt, is apparent from the beginning of the story. The desire to murder the old man increases whenever the narrator sees his deformed eye. It appears the narrator is obsessed with the deformed eye. The obsession to murder the old man based on his bad eye intensifies when the narrator sees him in bed.
The narrator does not exhibit obvious psychological motives. However, killing the old man based on the feelings the eye stirs in them is an indication of a possible motive. Indeed, motives for individual actions arise from thoughts, feelings, and fantasies. The narrator fantasises killing the old man, revealing this aspect of human thinking in the process.
Such an obsession and the narrator’s erratic behaviour, together with how they narrate the story, leave no doubt that they are insane. In fact, the narrator believes that the heartbeat of the dead old man nearly drove them insane to the extent of confessing to the crime. They describe how they shrieked and showed the police where they had hidden the body (Poe par. 10).
The Characters in the Story
The story has six major characters. They include narrator, the old man (who ends up as the victim), the neighbour, and the three police officers. However, the story revolves more around the narrator and the old man than it does around the other characters.
In fact, one can argue that the narrator and the old man are the main characters. The other four are just supporting characters. Poe is not clear on the identity of the narrator’s audience. It is not clear whom the narrator is trying to convince with the confession.
Narrator Literary Criticism
Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart revolves a lot around human nature. Human nature is made evident from the narrator’s viewpoint. The narrator is very confident in the execution of the heinous crime. They are confident enough to confess about the same. The desire to prove their sanity is even more intriguing. As a result, the narrator creates a picture of self-worthiness, self-conviction, and lack of remorse.
The narration turns out to be a perfect rhetoric in relation to the narrator. From the beginning to the end of the story, the narrator makes the reader view their deeds with contempt a number of times. Perhaps, as Zimmerman puts it, The Tell-Tale Heart is in real sense a form of courtroom rhetoric-judicial. It is a form of forensic oratory (Zimmerman Frantic Forensic Oratory 34).
The narrator appears determined to convince someone with his or her confession. The determination is evident when they insist that mad men know nothing (Poe par. 3). The narrator’s reference to “you” clearly shows that they are addressing someone else.
Perhaps the narrator is writing to or conversing with this ‘you’. The narrator tries to persuade and guide the audience to their point of view. Essentially, it is clear that the narrator has already confessed to the crime. They have already shown the police the body before their confession (Poe par. 10).
The narrator is defending themselves in the story. They do not regard the heinous act with any remorse or contempt. From this analysis, one can argue that the story reveals one major aspect of human nature that is inherent to many individuals. Generally, many people tend to overlook their individual flaws and faults. They may do everything in their power to cover up these flaws and faults (Bonaparte 32).
Ki points out the theme of “ego-evil”, which underlies the ‘main’ human nature highlighted in the narration (25). By definition, ego-evil refers to human behaviour that is, according to Zizek (70), driven by the desire for selfish gains and greed.
Such behaviour is very apparent concerning the conduct of the narrator. When one disregards the sanity of the narrator, which they seem to assert loudly, a sensible motive for their action is lost. In the words of the narrator, the old man had not done anything to anger them, “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me” (Poe par. 2).
From the discourse above, it is apparent that associating the narrator with ego-evil behaviour is logical. In essence, the narrator’s actions are motivated by some form of ideological ideal. The actions also emanate from their fanatical devotion (Ki 25).
The narrator’s egocentrism is apparent in their ‘over-identification’ with the views they hold. Such a trait on the part of the narrator ultimately leads to a form of “narcissistic ‘denigradation’ of others and violation of human laws” (Zizek 70).
The narrator claims killing the old man due to his bad eye. In essence, the narrator admits the old man’s vulture eye is what made them commit the offense (Poe par. 2). Such an explanation tells a lot about the narrator’s state of mind. Regarding the old man’s eye as identical to that of a vulture gives the narrator the motivation they need to commit the crime.
With such an attitude, they could easily kill the man without any remorse. As such, the narrator judged the old man based on personal affections, rather than on truth. Ki (25) explains this behaviour from a psychological perspective.
According to Ki (25), an intentional misjudgement of another person is an indication of the shortcomings of the self. It means that the self lacks insight (Ki 25). Killing the old man would rid the narrator the ‘torturing’ eye. Such an explanation appears valid from a psychological perspective.
The narrator is a true representation of ‘self-misrepresentation’. Their character also shows the narrator has ‘misdirected’ sense of self-worth and self-righteousness. Both of these aspects are blown out of proportion concerning the narrator. From the onset of the narrative, the persona appears determined to point out their strengths, which are in doubt.
In their narration, the persona says that the disease has only made their senses shaper. They claim to have heard things from heaven and from earth. According to them, this is proof enough that they are sane and not mad (Poe par. 1).
The narrator’s sense of self is terrible, especially with regards to their senses. Such a convoluted sense of self leads to another conclusion. The conclusion is that the narrator is psychotic. The psychotic nature of the narrator is the first impression created in the mind of the reader at the beginning of the narrative. However, the narrator endeavours to prove otherwise in the narrative.
Further analysis of the narration reveals that the persona is a ‘self-positing’ individual. They try to create the impression of an individual who is very right. They claim that they discovered their powers on that night. They were so happy when they discovered how intelligent they are (Poe par. 4). Such a ‘perception of self’ means that the narrator likes to exercise their powers on others.
Perceptions of own power, triumph, and sagacity also portray the narrator as a person who likes to dominate the helpless. The old man was asleep and half-blind due to the darkness and his bad eye, yet the narrator was triumphant of killing him. Pitcher (232) portrays the narrator in Poe’s tale as someone living in a universe where the self is the only god that exists.
Eventually, it is apparent that the narrator fails miserably to convince the audience of their sanity or self-importance. According to Melville (34), the narrator appears to fully understand the various techniques of argument. They are trying desperately to convince the audience.
Initially, the narrator indicates that they are aware of what the audience thinks of them. The narrator is aware that the audience considers them as a hostile, nervous, and lunatic person. Because of this awareness, the narrator attempts to win over the good will of whoever is listening to them.
The narrator lodges an appeal to the audience’s sense of reason to mitigate the hostility directed towards them. Such an appeal is also aimed at making the audience more receptive. The narrator tells the audience that they wish they were there when they were committing the offense. The audience, according to the narrator, would have seen for themselves how efficient and wise they (the narrator) are (Poe par. 3).
The narrator strategically makes use of concession as a means of ethical appeal. They try to impress the audience by proving that they can make frank confessions. They create the impression that they are a good person with a strong and confident streak. They try to prove that they can confidently concede and nullify opposing points of view.
The nature of Poe’s character in the story can be summed up from John Claggart’s psychoanalysis perspective (as cited in Melville). Thus, “the narrator’s even temper and discerning bearing would seem to point to an individual peculiarly exposed to the law of reason” ( Melville 76). The narrator has little or nothing to do with reason.
They only employ it as an ‘ambidexterity’ means of irrational affections. Such evaluation implies that the narrator is engaging in wanton atrocities that appear to be the reserve of the insane. They are engaging in such acts based on very ‘direct’ and ‘cool’ judgement. As such, one can conclude that the narrator is a mad man and very dangerous.
According to Zimmerman (Moral Insanity or Paranoid Schizophrenia? 42), Poe effectively maintains an objective distance in telling the story and watches as the reader tackles the etiological irony that follows. Poe uses rhetoric consciously and deliberately in most of his homicidal tales.
He also engages in irony in most of his arguments. Most of Poe’s characters try to justify their actions using ‘reasonable’ excuses that are not so ‘reasonable’. Such an approach is apparent in The Tell-Tale Heart story.
Bonaparte, Marie. The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe: A Psycho-Analytic Interpretation, London: Hogarth P., 1949. Print.
Freud, Sigmund. Dream Psychology: Psychoanalysis for Beginners, New York: James A. McCann Co., 1920. Print.
Ki, Magdalen. “Ego-Evil and the Tell-Tale Heart.” Renascence 61.1 (2008): 25-38. Print.
Melville, Herman. Billy Budd, Sailor, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1962. Print.
Pitcher, Edward. “The physiognomical meaning of Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.” Studies in Short Fiction 16.3 (1979): 231-233. Print.
Poe, Edgar 1922, The Tell-Tale Heart. Web. <http://www.poemuseum.org/the-tell-tale-heart>.
Zimmerman, Brett. “Frantic Forensic Oratory: Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’.” Style 35.1 (2001): 34-49. Print.
—. “Moral Insanity or Paranoid Schizophrenia: Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’.” Mosaic 25 (1992): 39-48. Print.
Zizek, Slavoj. Looking Awry, Cambridge: MIT, 1991. Print.
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.
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 &
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.