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Symbolism of the Tell-Tale Heart

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Essay title: Symbolism of the Tell-Tale Heart

Symbolism in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”

In Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, the narrator claims that he is not “mad” but his behavior tells a different story. He is truly determined to destroy another male human being, not because of jealousy or animosity but because “one of his eyes resembled that of a vulture- a pale blue eye, with a film over it” (1206). The narrator sees the man with this ghastly eye as a threat to his well being, but it is he who is a menace to his own being. He kills the man with pride only to concede to his horrific crime due to his guilt-ridden heart. His heart is empty, except for the evil that exists inside which ultimately destroys him.

The narrator insists that it his duty to kill the man with the evil eye because he can no longer bear to observe the horrifying sight. He has become obsessed with the eye and when he conceives his ultimate plan he says “it haunted me day and night” (1206). Just as he describes the man’s eye as similar to that of a vulture, the narrator suddenly bares the resemblance of a true vulture. He is now a predator, hunting his prey until it is finally caught. This continues for a week but he is not able to accomplish his goal. Not until the eighth night is the narrator finally capable of capturing his victim, and the evil eye that is torturing his insides.

The man is quietly asleep when the narrator walks in. He thinks to himself “I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart” (1207). At this time, the narrator feels no remorse about what he is going to do. He truly encompasses all evil and has no heart. The beating of the old man’s heart increases faster and faster. This foreshadows what later occurs when the narrator thinks he is hearing the dead man’s heart beat, when that is not what he is hearing at all. This is now the moment he has been waiting for and he goes about performing the deed. The vulture dismembers the body, limb by limb, while the man baring real evil remains alive. The narrator achieves the ultimate victory and thinks “his eye would trouble me no more” (1208).

It is four o’clock in the morning and there comes a knock at the door. The narrator “went down to open it with a light heart-for what had I now to fear?” (1208). He does not know that what he has to fear is not who is on the other side of the door; he has to fear himself. Three police officers appear at the door and he welcomes the men right in. They tell him that a loud scream has been heard by a neighbor during the night. He makes up a convincing story and feels confident in his triumph over the officers.

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