The Tell-Tale Heart
The Birth-mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne; the Raven, Annabel Lee and the Tell-tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe: Dark Romanticism
Although the movement of Romanticism, which followed on the heels of the Enlightenment has been characterised as nature-centred, God-affirming, idealist and patriotic, and generally associated with several positive values, a dark, subculture version of this school of thought also co-existed with the mainstream philosophy. Dark romanticism preoccupied itself with evil and sinister themes, focusing on death, wickedness and the ‘freaks of nature.’ Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe rank foremost among some novelists belonging to this school, pessimistically fixating on the darker side of life.
The Birth-mark (1843) written by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a short narrative which focuses on Nature, Humanity, and Science. In this tale, Hawthorne warns against scientific interference in nature. He argues that science tends to label natural mysteries as anomalies or deformities. Nature should be appreciated for what it is. For a human to be balanced, there must be a coordination of mind, body and spirit (a trinity of parts). Alymer, the scientist, finds fault with his wife, Georgiana’s birthmark and in an experiment, attempts to obliterate the ‘defect.’ Because of science’s tampering with nature, she dies. Science is destructive because it can take away life but cannot restore it. Science considers the birthmark as a mutation; however, the birthmark is the very stamp of nature, and humanity. Georgiana’s birthmark is described as a bloody hand. Here the man’s hand and the blood are both distinct features of one’s humanity. Alymer’s quest for perfection leads to Georgiana’s death – which signifies that human perfection is impossible. Another aspect of note in The Birthmark is the subservience of the woman. Georgiana feels constrained to follow her husband’s dictates so she tries to adapt herself to his scientific mould. She has neither identity, nor self-confidence and so, this situation shows us that the woman’s role was to stand in the shadow of her husband.
Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, “The Raven” (1845) is a forbidding image for it evokes images of darkness, death, fate and melancholy. The poem is an interview between a raven and the speaker. Illusion and reality are blurred because the narrator himself is sleepy. To every question that the narrator poses, the raven replies, “Nevermore.” The time is set during the winter – a season of death, lost love, and extinguished passion. This image is fitting because Leonore, the speaker’s lover is deceased. The raven comes from the world of the dead so the speaker is anxious to hear tidings of Leonore. In vain he tries to extract information from the raven. The raven even refuses to leave the narrator’s residence. Poe depicts the beauty of horror by infusing fear, suspense, and spectral apparitions in his poem. “Annabel Lee” (1850) is a nostalgic poem which tells of youthful love and its end through death. The poetic work focuses on death and love. Annabel Lee is the speaker’s dead lover about whom he reminisces. The scene is set near the sea and evokes fantasy. Death is symbolized however by the “cold sea breeze.” The angelic train takes the narrator’s love away from him however they remain together although they are in two separate worlds. As proof of their union and immortal love, the speaker lies beside his lady’s grave, near the seaside. “The Tell Tale Heart” (1843) delves into the evil plotting of a wily murderer bent to killing an old man. The poem probes into the psyche of an ingenious killer who develops hatred, hatches a murderous plot, prepares for the murder, executes his victim and makes a reluctant, panicked confession. The murderer’s heightened hearing ability coupled with his burdened, guilty conscience force him to lay bare his crime before the law enforcers. Poe creates intense suspense and drama through the story’s brevity, the killer’s mental conflict, and his anguish. Images employed in the poem are the vulture-eye, darkness, and the heartbeat.
The Narrator of the Tell-tale Heart
The protagonist of this piece is narrating his own story. According to Gerard Genette’s theory, he would be classified as an autodiegetic narrator. Therefore, the reader is limited to the protagonist’s perception of his surroundings. Furthermore, this narrative situation allows for the reader to get a glimpse inside of the protagonist’s head, in addition to being exposed to all the emotions flowing through him.
What can be said about the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” and his depiction of the chain of events, particularly the ending?
The narrator of this story is unreliable because there are plenty of clues which point to him being mentally unstable.Him revealing his decision “to take the life of the person” is not point where the reader begins to doubt his sanity. As a matter of fact, it is the first paragraph in which he states that he has “heard all things in the heaven and in the earth” and has “heard many things in hell.” Him claiming that his hearing transcends earthly tether indicates some form of insanity. Therefore, the reader is influenced right from the start. The story starts out with a very defensive note. He seems obsessed with proving that he’s sane and is adamant of about not having the label “madman” thrust upon him. He goes on to say that he will “healthily” and “calmly” recount the entire story. The narrator claims to harbor no hostile feelings towards “the old man”. He declares affection for him. It’s the man’s eye, similar to “that of a vulture”, which deeply triggers the narrator.
Consequently he decides that he will kill the man. However, it is quite apparent that his recitation is the antithesis of what one would describe as “calm”. He exhibits a lot of enthusiasm; this is emphasized by the multitude of interjections and the exclamation points. Furthermore, he strays off-topic a lot.
In the third paragraph he accuses somebody, maybe the reader or society of seeing him as insane. The addressee remains unclear throughout the entire story.
His plan to kill the man serves as evidence for his sanity. He believes that an insane person would not be able to think of such a brilliant, carefully laid out plan.
While the narrator does make the impression of being kind of impulsive, one can’t deny that his plan is calculated. Since the man’s eye sets him off, it is therefore kind of surprising that he didn’t impulsively kill the man the first time he experienced this rage. He completely disregards the immorality of his actions. He never reflects about right or wrong, he doesn’t seem to feel an ounce of guilt. However, one can argue that he isn’t completely devoid of morality. Once again, this points to unreliability. The narrator claims that he had a solid, calculated plan, but it can be argued that it ranges on sheer impulsivity. Him being extremely kind to the old man is a way to relieve his guilt.
“With what foresight” “but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old ma who vexed me, but his Evil Eye.” He views the eye as a fragment completely separate from the man. Each time, however, the eye was closed. This deterred him from killing the men during one of those seven nights. This again indicates that he can separate the cursed eye from the actual human-being; that he doesn’t see them as one. Could this point to some sort of moral awareness? It is the eye that sets something off inside the narrator, it ignites a surge of emotions inside of him. It could be the one thing that diminishes the last bits of morality he still has left. Since the eye is not visible during those nights, the narrator is able to keep his composure, he is more mentally stable and still clings to somewhat moral values. One could speculate that since he likes the man, he doesn’t want to harm him at all. However, he sees murder as the last resort. He wants the man to open his eye. The malicious emotions outweigh the last glimpse of humanity and morality he has left, he forgets about the affection he has for the man because darkness encompasses him at that moment. He is only able to take the man’s life in this state. He was kind to him every morning, as not to raise any suspicions. Once again, one could also make the case that he does this to relieve subconscious guilt. On the eighth night, there was a change: he proceeded much more carefully. He was more aware of his special ability. It excites him that his actions and his malicious thoughts go unnoticed. It feeds into his delusions of grandeur. The man releases a “groan of mortal terror” after noticing that he is not alone, that he is being scrutinized. This sound is familiar to the narrator. Apparently, he has experienced terrors before and therefore has unleashed this same groan at midnight a few times before. The reader can’t help
Analysis of “William Wilson” and “The Tell-tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe is considered a major figure when it comes to literature; mostly through his poems, short stories, and various works of fiction. His works depict artistic imagination especially when it comes to the rationality of man (Szabo & Crisan 1). The theme of otherness in literature can be viewed as the aspect of being different from what is considered normal. Normal, in this case, put into view certain expectations or rather aspects that do not deviate from the social norm. Otherness, in the works by Edgar Allan Poe, is illustrated by the gothic style integrated in most of his works. He is known for developing gothic fictions in literature (Sun 94). The analysis puts into view the theme of otherness with respect to the literary works, William Wilson and The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.
William Wilson by Poe depicts the otherness theme through the character of the main protagonist, Wilson. William Wilson is different from the normal expectations of man’s behavior through his dual nature. He abides by both reality and illusion, especially after his institutionalization. While institutionalized, Wilson develops an alter ego, which he identifies using his own name, which subjects him to schizophrenic experiences (Kao 2). He becomes confined in the institution through which the allusions limit him from understanding his surroundings. The illusions associated with the development of the alter ego challenge him to struggle to acquire free will. However, as the story progresses, it becomes clear that Wilson is not confined or controlled by the institution but rather by his own mind (Kao 2). The academy, as per his case, becomes the external force that oppresses his free will. Being the perceived external force, Wilson focuses to overwhelm it in his pursuit for free will. Wilson states, “at an age when few children have abandoned their leading-strings, [he] was left to the guidance of [his] own will, and became, in all but name, the master of [his] own actions” (Poe) to illustrate the victimization imposed on him by the academy. The mental pursuit of his free will is illustrated by the statement, “The next morning I began a hurried journey away from Oxford University. I ran, but I could not escape. I went from city to city, and in each one Wilson appeared.” From his description, the institution is endless and entails complex divisions. Besides the academy’s complex nature, Wilson also views his free will to be limited by the teacher who imposes complex rules in the entire institution (Kao 3). The teacher is positioned at various levels that include being the school’s administrator, a pastor apart from the teacher. Wilson exhibits fear when he views the teacher both in school and in church. It is important to note that his mental deterioration commences immediately after he becomes part of the institution as his experience is different when compared to pre-school life. However, through the struggle to acquire freedom from the academy and the teacher, the mental struggle results in his self-destruction. At the end of the story, he states, “And, in my death— see by this face, which is your own, how wholly, how completely, you have killed — yourself!” (Poe). The statement does not possibly imply an actual death but may also signify Wilson’s complete mental incapacitation (Kao 5). Therefore, through the mental struggle between reality and illusion Poe illustrates the theme of otherness through Wilson’s character.
Otherness, in The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe is illustrated by the madness of the narrator. The story is narrated using the first person which makes it easier for the reader to comprehend the protagonist’s elusive thoughts. His dark thoughts differ from the norm especially since he appears to be disturbed by illogical elements (Amir 596). His awkward behaviour is illustrated with his claim that he is of sound mind rather than mad, the idea that he is disturbed by a sound that keeps elevating. On his stance that he was not mentally incapacitated, he perceives that his sickness developed his senses, thought-processes and emotions including a strong hearing ability. He states, “The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute,” (Poe 1). It is from his assumed “strong” senses that he is pushed to believe that one of the eyes of the old man has to be eliminated. He perceives that he had no problem with the old man apart from his eye. He states, “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.” In other words, it is his indifferent senses that push him to commit murder. It is from the statement that the reader ascertains that the narrator is mentally incapacitated (Amir 597). Also, the narrator appears to be thrilled about how he managed to carry out the murder; an aspect that deviates from the societal norm when it comes to valuing life. He states, “Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in!” Apart from the eye, he believes that the sounds that he keeps on hearing emanate from the old man’s heart. This happens on the last day of his attempt to kill the old man when he hears the heartbeat with the view that the sound from it keeps on elevating. Furthermore, he believes that the sound could be heard by the neighbours. To put an end to the sound, he pounces at the old man and kills him. When police arrived at his home after receiving a call from the neighbour about some disturbance emanating from his house, he calmly takes the police around the house. However, he begins to hear the sound again. He attempts to ignore it by moving his chair but is unable to control it. By then, he becomes convinced that the police are aware of his deed and thus confesses about his crime. He states, “Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!” (Poe). The most possible assumption is that the narrator is struggling with guilt and attempting to justify his actions using illusions (Amir 598). Otherness, in this case, is illustrated by his state of mind whereby he fails to distinguish between reality and illusions.
As mentioned earlier, the analysis puts into view the theme of otherness with respect to the literary works, William Wilson and The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. Otherness is perceived as an aspect of being different from what is considered as normal Otherness, in William Wilson, is illustrated by the mental struggle between reality and illusion by the protagonist which later leads to his self-destruction. Otherness in The Tell-Tale Heart is illustrated by the narrator’s state of mind which eventually results in his evil deed and self-destruction.
Edgar Allan Poe’s the Tell-tale Heart and the Decline of Sanity Throughout
Poe and Disintegrating Sanity in “The Tell-Tale Heart”
Edgar Allan Poe is commonly regarded as a master of horror short stories, wherein many of his narrators experience signs of insanity. His story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” which conveys a man committing a foul murder, exemplifies Poe’s ability. In this story, Poe uses a first-person narrative account as well as a varying choice of phrases and punctuation to demonstrate the disintegration of the sanity of his narrator.
“But why will you say that I am mad?” (Poe 354). Within the first sentence of Poe’s plot, readers can easily infer that the narrator is indeed mad, the narrator will be attempting throughout the story is to prove that he is not gone. His recollection of his crime fails to defend his sanity – he manages to convince his audience of his insanity instead. Calm in demeanor, the narrator appears to be able to explain the murder of the old man with “the eye of a vulture” (354) logically. Evidence of his decreasing sanity exists in his actions and in the way he speaks of the events.
The second paragraph begins with the idea of murder entering the narrator’s brain and consuming his thoughts. The narrator, however, does not know “how first the idea entered [his] brain” (354). The unnamed idea consumed the narrator and filled him with an unknown rage. As the he continues to brag about his deed, the narrator reveals that the eye of the old man fills this stalker with rage. He now reveals the idea to murder the man to rid the narrator of the vulture eye. This event in the narrator’s recollection shows the beginning of the decline of the man’s sanity. An eye is leading the man to want to murder an old man that he admits he loves. This descent into insanity is continued as the narrator prepares and plans the murder. The narrator “was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before [the narrator] killed him” (354), and he considers his process to be wise. He regards his work as cunning, wise, and cautious. He is not able to complete his task however, as he finds the vulture eye closed every night. The narrator is not willing to kill the man; he simply wants the eye out of his life. This reluctance to murder the old man further demonstrates the man’s insanity. He is not murdering the man just to kill; he wants something very specific out of the murder. The narrator wants to rid his life of the vulture eye.
On the night of the murder, the old man is awakened by the opening of his door, and the murderous narrator “chuckled at heart” upon hearing the man’s “groan of mortal terror” (355). This silent laughter at the man’s fear demonstrates the potential psychopathy of the narrator. As the narrator allows a sliver of light to rest upon the vulture eye, he is immediately put into a frenzy, further demonstrating his madness. The murderer is “helpless about his anxieties and his temperament. He cannot help not getting angry from trivial things” (Madi) such as the man’s eye. This anger allows the narrator to gruesomely murder the old man and dismember the corpse. In his recollection, he feels pride rather than guilt or pain. In retrospect, “his thoughts of the grisly murder he committed are not accompanied by the feelings of disgust that mental healthy people would feel” (Zimmerman 40). His sanity continues to disintegrate as he believes that he can hear the dead man’s heartbeat, a trait that is a “real indicator of his complicated psychology” (Madi).
In addition to plot developments showing the growing insanity of the narrator as his mind consumes him, Poe uses “grammatical and linguistic choices” to prove “the madness and the instability of the main character of the story” (Madi). At the beginning, Poe uses a coherent and structured style of writing, to show the narrator’s serenity and sanity. The narrator appears to be telling a story to an unknown audience, a technique used often by Poe. In the cases of “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat”, for example, “the mentally disturbed murders want to convince their auditors of the reasonableness of their crimes” (Zimmerman 33). His diction is like that of an “orator… or like a defence attorney advocating a point of view” (34) as he uses interjections to add emotion and compel the reader forward, but not block potential meaning. The admission of the opening episode demonstrates this, as the narrator states “True! – nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous” He is able to directly address his audience as a competent storyteller, an ability that disintegrates with his sanity. The narrator speaks directly to his audience many times – “I can tell you the whole story”, “you fancy me mad”, “you would have laughed!” (Poe 354). Poe’s narrator speaks directly to the audience to implore his listeners to believe his claim to sanity. His competence as a storyteller, however, disintegrates with the disintegration of his sanity.
As the plot advances, the choice of words and use of punctuation changes. Poe uses shorter sentences and more frequent interjections and punctuation to create a faster pace within the story as well as to mimic the beating of the old man’s heart. By changing the pace of the story to an upbeat tempo, he loses the composed peace he has maintained since the beginning and “his forensic powers have degenerated into complete and utter frenzy” (Zimmerman 36). Poe creates choppy sentences to mirror the increasing pace of the tale as the sound of the heartbeat grows louder. The narrator “talked more quickly – more vehemently”. The narrator’s growing paranoia – “they suspected! – they knew! – they were making a mockery of my horror!” – is matched by the heightened pace of the narrative. Just before confessing, the narrator hears the heart beating “again! – hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! – ” (Poe 357). This tempo increase and choppiness demonstrates the growing insanity of the narrator.
Poe’s understanding and demonstration of insanity appears in other short stories, including “The Black Cat” and “The Cask of Amontillado”, and many follow similar patterns as “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In addition to insanity demonstrated by actions, Poe uses words and punctuation to show the inner minds of his characters. Is Poe able to master the technique of using language to show emotions, as his narrators can show “how calmly [they] can tell you the whole story” (354)?
The Use of Imagery, Strong Irony, and Similes in The Tell-Tale Heart, a Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Literary Analysis of The Tell-Tale Heart
Edgar Allen Poe was born in 1809 and has become one of the most critically examined authors of his time. Poe was an author of many works and has undergone countless critics and attempts at analyses of his work but it is hard to understand an author who has qualities of people we don’t quite understand. Poe was a drug addict, an alcoholic, an incestuous man (although common), and a murderer or at least in his short stories he was. One example of a short story where Poe wrote about killing someone was in, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In this story, Edgar Allen Poe uses imagery, strong irony, and similes to show that humans cannot handle guilt and are dying to spill the truth
Firstly, as a person reads “The Tell-Tale Heart” there all kinds or imagery to be found. The first example of imagery to be found is when Poe talks of the “pale, blue eye, with a film over it.” Poe described the eye as such because blue represents innocence, but the paleness of the eye as well as the film that overlays the eye are representations of guilt. When a person feels guilty not only do they feel like everyone knows they did it but everyone can tell there is something different about that person and in Poe’s case it made his “blood run cold.” How would/does Poe know that the old man is guilty of something? Well, this story is a psychosexual tale and Poe is a practicing sadomasochistic person as well as he was a partaker of voyeurism (Dayon 225). This suggest to me that Poe watched every move of the old man because he loved him and loved the thrill he got from spying on him. Could it be that Poe saw the old man do something that he shouldn’t have? Or maybe Poe’s dislike of the eye was because it seemed to always be open which would limit Poe’s taboo fantasy and make it harder to fulfill. According to Gita Rajan and her paper on a feminist reading of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” She seems to think the character in Poe’s story is a female. There is no evidence to support that Poe was open to homosexuality which makes it seem more feasible that the character be a female. This doesn’t change the story, but it makes the idea more interesting, but why did Poe kill him? According to Magdalen Wing-chi Ki in her paper about ego-evil, she believes that Poe experienced the most common form of evil excuses. She describes ego-evil as, “the elevation of self-love” (Ki, 25.) Poe made himself feel so good that it outweighed the severity of the murder. Another example of imagery that shows how Poe hated the eye because of it always being open is as follows: “It was open—wide, wide open— and I grew furious as I gazed upon it.” Why would Poe be so angry at the open eye? Because it kept Poe from fulfilling his fantasy. Another example of imagery in the story is when Poe has startled the old man in his sleep and is now frozen in time to avoid being caught by the old mans “Vulture” eye. “Death, in approaching him, had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim.” This imagery is also interpreted to be a bit of foreshadowing. I believe this quote is referring to death as guilt. The guilt the old man may have had had been following him wherever he went and had consumed him. Lastly, if we look at a point in the story where the tables turn and Poe holds all the guilt we see he still uses imagery to describe what sounds guilt makes. “It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when it is enveloped in cotton.” The watch he refers to is not one you tell time with, but a beetle that symbolized coming death (More on that later.)
One of the most prominent literary devices Poe uses in his story’s is irony. Referring to the first two examples of imagery and how they connected to guilt one might not think of irony, but when you look at the third example, it shows that the guilt Poe thought the old man has was ironic to his own guilt. As Poe peered into the room where the old man slept, Poe describes listening to the “death watches in the wall.” Death watches are beetles that infest timbers and they produce a clicking sound that was thought to be an omen of death and ironically it came true. Shortly after hearing the death watches, Poe decides to rush into the room and kill the old man. There is also some irony in dismembering the man’s body. Poe decides to keep the body inside the house. The purpose of killing the old man was to rid himself of that open eye, but he kept the eye in the house with him. Another piece of irony in the story is early in the beginning. “I heard all things in heaven and in earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?” Poe doesn’t recognize that he has a physiological disorder although we (the readers) clearly see he isn’t the typical man. As the story reads on Poe continues to try and persuade the reader that he is not mad. Even after he murders the old man he tries to convince you that he couldn’t be mad. Mad men wouldn’t have been so cunning in a murder. This is all ironic because we can clearly see that Poe is crazy, but is the old man the only victim? According to Paul Witherington who writes “The Accomplice in “The Tell-Tale Heart”,” he says that there are two victims in this story. The old man and Poe himself are victims. The old man because he was murdered, but Poe also because of his mental illness (Witherington, 472.) It is possible that Poe Made this character mentally ill to simply “juice up” the story, but nothing is simple with Poe. Poe wants to change our idea of what a mad man is. He wants us to consider that a person is not mad if they can so careful plan things they wish to do.
You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work! He was a very cunning criminal and not a mad man… or that’s what he wishes for us to believe.
Lastly, Poe uses similes in his story to help describe things and to allow us to see it in our heads. “—still dark as midnight.” This quote is after the death of the old man and what time it was. “One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture.” A simile to describe the appearance of the old man’s eye. And to ultimately be a descriptor that Poe decided must be removed. In my opinion, similes simply add more quality to the poem. Irony helps build the story and imagery and similes add “flavor” to the story. The story would not have the “vulture” eye without the use of the previous simile.
To conclude, Edgar Allan Poe is arguably one of the best horror fiction writers to date and with his use of literary devices like imagery, irony, and similes, he stands out from the others. Stephan King was also a good Horror fiction writer as well. I picked this Story to analyze because I find it interesting when “madmen” find unique ways to commit crimes. For example, I like the Saw series. Although gruesome and unappealing to most, I find his witty traps unique and like Poe don’t believe they are madmen, rather individuals who think freely in a wrong way.
The Point of View of The Tell – Tale Heart
The Point of View of The Tell – Tale Heart Poe writes “The Tell Tale Heart” from the perspective of the murderer of the old man. When an author creates a situation where the central character tells his own account, the overall impact of the story is heightened. The narrator, in this story, adds to the overall effect of horror by continually stressing to the reader that he or she is not mad, and tries to convince us of that fact by how carefully this brutal crime was planned and executed.
The point of view of the narrator helps communicate that the theme is madness to the audience because from the beginning the narrator uses repetition, metaphors and irony.”True!–nervous–very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses–not destroyed–not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heavens and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?” (Literature 37) “…Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me.” (Literature 37)
As you can see the narrator is clearly mad, because this story is told in the first person it helps you understand the character even better, because we are seeing what exactly is happening to him moment by moment. It helps us understand what is going on in his head because we are getting to know him throughout the story.
The repetition in this story is phenomenal. He uses it constantly, adding to the madness of this man. “And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly –very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep.” (Literature 37) He is insane and losing it every moment of the story, repeating words and using disturbing metaphors and similes. He compares many things such as referring to the eye of the old man as the “evil eye”, and “eye of a vulture”. All the while doing this, the narrator believes that he is normal and is not insane.
The purpose of the figurative language used in this story is to coincide with helping the 1st person point of view. “Ha! Would a madman have been so wise as this,”.(Literature 37) “It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed”.(Literature 37)
This story is basically a big exaggeration of madness, showing the actions and feelings of the narrator. The narrator helps us by using all these big exaggerations to understand how he has lost his mind and is going to commit murder.The narrator repeatedly insists that he is not mad; however the reader soon realizes that the fear of the vulture eye has consumed the narrator, who by this point in the story has become a victim to the madness which he had hoped to elude. Without all the figurative language it would be hard to see that the theme of this story, being madness, is all possible due to the point of view being in first person.
We see that the character never changed, but by the end of the story the narrator finally realizes that what he was trying to convince himself of was completely false. For his madness he revealed in the beginning only gets the best of him in the end.
Kennedy, X.J., and Dana Gioia.
An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Pearson, 2016, 2013, and 2010
Depiction Of Madness In “Berenice” And “The Tell-Tale Heart” By Edgar Allen Poe
Throughout many texts Edgar Allen Poe has shown that he is afraid of those who are mentally insane yet truly believe that they are rational, reasonable people. While reading the short stories “Berenice” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” you can see his fears come through in somewhat irrational ways.
In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe writes about a man who becomes obsessed with a man’s eye. The old man is blind and so there is a blue haze over his eye. The narrator decides he needs to kill the man to be free of it, so he sneaks into his room every night for a week. One day the old man wakes up and the narrator lunges at him and suffocates him. Once he hears his heart stop beating he removes the mattress he used to suffocate him. Once he sees that the man is dead, he cuts his body up and puts it under the floor. One of the neighbors called the police because they heard screaming, so when the police showed up the narrator convinced them that everything was all right. While they were talking the storyteller got a sense of guilt and confessed to everything, showing them where he buried the body.
The storyteller was a normal man who would not be classified as mentally unfit. He was a mentally sane man who become obsessed with something out of the ordinary. He was so obsessed that he became mentally ill and did not know it. He thought it was rational to sneak into the man’s room for eight days. He realized after he murdered the man and the police talked to him that it was not sane for him to murder the man over his eye being clouded over. Once the man realized what he had done he became riddled with fear and guilt. In this text you can see Poe’s fears of those who do not know what they are capable of until it happens.
In the short story “Berenice,” Poe talks about a man named Agaeus, who is in love with his cousin Berenice. The both suffer from disorders. She has a form of epilepsy; whenever she has an episode she falls unconscious and looks like she has died. Agaeus suffers from an obsessive disorder. Berenice becomes ill and the only thing that has not been affected by it are her teeth, so one day she walks in to talk to Agaeus and smiles and he becomes obsessed with her teeth. He focuses so much on that, that he ends up blacking out and not remembering any of what has happened in the lapsed time. In that time Berenice has an episode and everyone thinks she is dead, so they bury her. The next thing that Agaeus remembers is his maid running in and screaming that someone has desecrated Berenice’s grave. They look over and see the muddied shovel and clothes and he becomes so distraught when he sees a container by him. He tries to grab it a to see what is inside, but he drops it and her teeth scatter across the floor. Agaeus seems to be mentally together, but he becomes so focused on certain things in his life that days will pass by without him realizing. Days had gone by with him being so focused on Berenice’s teeth, and he had not realized until his maid snapped him out of it. Once he snapped out he realized that he had done something horrible. While in his “day dream” he had dug up Berenice’s grave, where she was buried alive, and ripped her teeth out of her head. We know she was still alive, because he was covered in claw marks from when she tried to stop him.
Poe indirectly talks about the fear of those who are deranged, but they don’t realize it. He talks about how there is evil in all of us and our hearts can become corrupted easily. In each story that he writes, he talks about the person becoming obsessed with some element in their life that drives them crazy. All of them started off as normal, active people in society until they let the darkness into their heart and were driven mad by it. They did not realize that they were going crazy until it was too late and there was irreparable damage caused by it.
I understand why Poe is afraid of those who do not see their madness. If you do not see it then there is no way for you to learn how to control it. You do not understand what you are doing wrong either. You are caught in an endless loop of pain and misery because of it.
The Use of Different Literary Elements in The Tell-Tale Heart, a Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Telltale Heart”
During the creation of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story “The Telltale Heart”, he uses several different elements to weave us the reader a thrilling page turner. He uses the elements of setting, tone in which he writes, point of view and even the characterization to create this chilling tale of suspense. For myself I believe that the main theme of this short story is guilt being monstrous and consuming nearly everything until it drives a person to complete madness.
If we dismantle a few of the key parts of the story we can see how these elements all interact with one another to pull together our main them being consuming guilt. We enter the story with a seemingly mad-man hitting the reader with a barrage of questions about being mad (Charters,1127); he seems to be on an adrenaline rush of some sort almost this peak the readers interest and pushes us to read on. Our narrator carries on the story by telling us that the old man’s eye is just like a vulture trying to consume him and he must kill the eye(Charters,1128); notice how it is not the old man our narrator wishes dead just that awful haunting eye. Our narrator went on to plot the death of the old man for days just waiting and waiting until eventually he was finally successful in killing the old man by smothering him to death. The immediate emotion by the narrator was relief that the vulture like eye would no longer bother him. I feel during this next stage of the process is where the immediate guilt begins to set in as our author is dismembering the old man’s body to be hidden away to hid his guilt for killing the man(Charters,1129) The police hearing of the screaming show up and are initially convinced that the narrator was not guilty of any wrong doing; however our narrator is eventually consumed with guilt hearing the repeating heartbeat getting louder and louder driving him mad enough to eventually confess to the entire crime of killing and dismembering the old man(Charters,1130)
I feel that the overall message or theme that Mr. Edgar Allan Poe is trying to get across with this story is that eventually the truth with always come to be known so it is best to just save yourself the madness and guilt; Just confess when you have done something in error.
The Tell- Tale heart (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.