Tell-Tale Heart’ – One of The Scary Tales of Edgar Allan Poe

February 15, 2021 by Essay Writer

What goes through the mind of a man when he kills? Is it the lust to execute pain or is it the haunting guilt? In “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe it seems that the overall theme is guilt and its connection to the narrator’s madness. This gothic horror story explores how obsession can develop into madness and eventually lead to devastation of its victim.

There is not an explicit outer description of the narrator. Not his name, age or look. The reader cannot even be certain of the gender, but we assume that he is male because of his allusion to madmen; “Madmen know nothing”.

The story is told in first-person, therefore the reader cannot determine whether what he says is true, thus, he is an unreliable narrator. This is also evident early in the story as he tries to persuade the reader that he is not mad “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” He describes himself as anxious and having almost supernatural senses. As he tries to prove his sanity throughout the story, the reader gets a clear idea of his spilt psyche. The narrator almost insists that he loves the old man: “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me” but yet he wishes to kill him because of his evil eye: “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”

The point of view of the story is first-person. This occurs throughout the story when the narrator is described with the first person pronoun “I”. Poe effectively utilize his decision to have the mysterious first-person narrator directly consign an equally mysterious second-person “you.”: “You fancy me mad. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded”. This indicates that the narrator has had time to look back on and reflect on his experiences and that he is trying to influence the reader’s perception of the events. The story is told through the murderers perspective therefore when the author creates a situation where the main character tells his version, the overall credibility is weakened.

Using the first-person point of view, it allows us as the readers to engage in the narrator’s thoughts and, thus, judge on behalf of the character. In this case, we can conclude based on the action and thoughts of the narrator that he is anxious and deranged. In addition, the main character claims to be so agitated about the old man’s evil eye, and therefore commits murder “I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever”

Perhaps the narrator suspects that the old man’s eye might have seen the narrator, as he really was – a mad man. Throughout the story, the main character does not change. However, by the end of the story, the narrator realizes that everything that he tried to convince himself was false. The madness that was revealed by the beginning of the story got the best of him in the end.

In “The Tell-Tale Heart” Edgar Allen Poe builds up this suspense and mysterious atmosphere, by leading us through the evil darkness that lingers in his character’s consciousness and heart. The author uses the eerie description and focus on the old man’s eye to generate horror and suspense. The eye appears to be the main reason and excuse for the narrator to kill the old man. Poe builds up the suspense by using repetition “I felt that I must scream or die! and now – again! – hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!”. A decisive factor that influences the atmosphere and mood is Poe’s use of fast pacing. The thing that ties the whole story together is the tempo. In this case, we can compare the tempo to the beating of a heart. The intonation throughout the story matches the murder’s mood. In the beginning, it starts with the narrator telling us peacefully, that he is not a madman. The reader then believes him because the pace of the words is languid. But by the end of the story, the rate increases with the racing of his thoughts: “Almighty God! – no-no! They heard! – they suspected! – they knew! – they were making a mockery of my horror!”. Even though the short syllabic structure makes the reading rhythmic, it also tends to speed it up. By taking a look at my thesis statement, my intention of the story and introduction I can now conclude that the narrator’s obsession with the old man’s eyes eventually leads to madness where he, in this case, chose to kill him.


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