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Poe’s “the Tell-Tale Heart”

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English 102

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Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”

In Edgar Allan Poe’s story ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, the narrator murders the old man with whom he used to live, and he says that there was no motive behind the murder. The story revolves around the two main characters, the narrator and the old man. In the short story, Poe shows the madness and selfishness that the narrator portrays, and also shows how he starts feeling guilty later by using literary devices such as point of view, plot and symbolism, and gives it a more dramatic effect. The narrator tries to prove his sanity throughout the entire story and while trying to do so, it becomes even clearer that the narrator has a psychological disorder. The madness that he has may be the result of a serious disease or some sort of abuse or bad experience that he might have undergone during his life. The narrator related himself to the old man and by killing the old man he was trying to get rid of the frustrations he had within him. The narrator told the truth because he could not tolerate the sense of guilt that had been trying to kill him from inside. In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, the narrator is a selfish person whose psychological disorder led him to murder an innocent old man, and he later feels the sense of guilt that is above his selfishness and madness.

The narrator is a selfish and mentally ill person who killed the old man without any reason, but he confesses of his deed later because not even a selfish and mad person is above a sense of guilt and the havoc it causes to the mind. In the second paragraph of the story he said- “Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. For his gold I had no desire” (Poe 242). His act lacked the motive, which shows his selfishness and “egocentric” (Pritchard) nature. The whole event was a planned action. It did not happen suddenly. It took the narrator a long time to plan and to practice before he finally turned his plan into action. The narrator felt that one of the eyes of the old man “resembled that of a vulture” (Poe 242) that would drive him crazy. He was driven by his obsession and decided to kill the old man to get rid of that eye. Thus the only motivation for him to kill the old man seems to be his “vulture like” (Poe 242) eyes. “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” (Poe 246). This gives us the clue of his inhuman and cruel nature. He “derives pleasure from cruelty” (Pritchard). This event of cold murder is an example of extreme cruelty and insanity. However, even before he murders the old man we could see his confidence fading as he says, “I have told you that I am nervous: so I am” (Poe 245), and we could see him feeling guilty when he, towards the end of the story, “gasped for breath” (Poe 247) and “talked more quickly, more vehemently” (Poe 247), and he still could hear the noise (the old man’s “heart beat”) increase.

In this story Poe shows the narrator’s madness and how the sense of guilt penetrated the wall of his selfishness by weaving a sequence of psychological horror and drama . He does this by skillfully using the elements of literature like point of view, plot, and symbolism. The author adds the chilling effect and suspense to the story which creates a psychological drama. In the story, the narrator tells his story which attempts to capture the readers into the plot seen only from one man’s point of view. His descriptive sense of style while describing the eye allows the reader to develop proportionate feelings of animosity toward the old man while tapping into feelings of empathy for the speaker. The symbolism is also seen in the story. The eye of the old man is said to have resemblance with the eyes of a vulture and the vulture symbolizes corpse and sharpness of vision. The sharpness of the senses is also mentioned by the narrator as he says, “The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them” (Poe 242). The sound that a “watch

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