The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe Essay
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Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, a short story about internal conflict and obsession, showcases the tortured soul due to a guilty conscience. The story opens with an unnamed narrator describing a man deranged and plagued with a guilty conscience for a murderous act. This man, the narrator, suffers from paranoia, and the reason for his crime is solely in his disturbed mind. He becomes fixated on the victim’s (the old man’s) eye, and his conscience forces him to demonize the eye. Finally, the reader is taken on a journey through the planning and execution of a murder at the hands of the narrator. Ultimately, the narrator’s obsession causes an unjust death which culminates into internal conflict due to his guilty conscience. The…show more content…
The cold and calculating confession is due to the fact that the narrator has detached himself from all sense of normal remorse. His madness has rendered him unable to control ordinary emotions. Instead, he is left begging the reader to praise his cunningly accomplished acts. The narrator states, “You should have seen me,” and then implores again, “You should have seen how wisely I proceeded – and with what caution – with what foresight – with what dissimulation I went to work!” (Poe 923). It is apparent to the reader, or anyone of sound mind, that this man is suffering a mental breakdown due to obsessive paranoia. What triggered his obsession with the victim is something so simple it cannot be justified. It was the victim’s eye! The motivation for murder according to the narrator was “not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye” (Poe 922). However, it is possible that the eye symbolizes a necrosis of the narrator’s spirit. The narrator uses terms such as “infuriate”, “hideous”, “vulture” and “dammed” when describing the eye (Poe 923). These words are often used to describe the demonization of individuals who commit irrational crimes against humanity, such as the crime our narrator is confessing to, the murder and dismemberment of an innocent old man in his sleep. In “The Physiognomical Meaning of Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’”, Edward W. Pritcher states “it
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Edgar Allan Poe, whose personal torment so powerfully informed his visionary prose and poetry, is a towering figure in the history of American literature. A Virginia gentleman and the son of itinerant actors, the heir to great fortune and a disinherited outcast, a university man who had failed to graduate, a soldier brought out of the army, a husband with an unapproachable child-bride, a brilliant editor and low salaried hack, a world renowned but impoverish author, a temperate man and uncontrollable alcoholic, a materialist who yearned for a final union with God. His fevered imagination brought him to great heights of creativity and the depths of paranoiac despair. Yet although he produced a relatively small volume of work, he virtually invented the horror and detective genres and his literary legacy endures to this day.
In the Tell Tale Heart the main character, the narrator, has a problem with an old man, the antagonist, whom he is living with. The odd thing is that the problem has nothing to do with old man, how he acts, or even his attitude towards the narrator. It is simply one of the old man's eyes which is blind or he can't see a hundred percent in one eye. The narrator's description of the eye is that it resembled that of a vulture, pale blue with a film over it. When the narrator looked at it, it caused his blood to run cold. This drove him crazy and caused him to kill the old man
He begins to believe that he is hearing the old man's heart beating, while he was killing him and after he is dead. The pounding becomes louder and louder, and drives him crazy. It forces him to tell the police officers, who are searching his house, that he killed the old man and showed them were the body is buried, which is the most ironic and the last thing you would think to happen. The irony comes into play when his heightened sense of hearing and sober madness is the cause of his downfall. How ironic, the same craze that led him to kill the man is the same craze that led him to his demise.
The story takes place in a house around the turn of the 1800, probably in the northeastern part of the United States, and covers the period of one week and the relentless pursuit of perfect preparation the narrator went through to commit murder without getting caught. The story involves an old man, the antagonist, the police, and the protagonist, who is also the narrator, and tells the story from his point of view. On the other hand we have no idea of the relationship between the antagonist, the old man and the narrator, but what is told to us by the narrator. One tends to wander if they were related or was he simply a servant for hire and therefore cared for the old man. The narrator has left a lot to our imagination on the relationship of the characters.
His insanity has made him a very paranoid man, he believes that everyone is trying to make a full of him, even thought he believed he carried out a perfect murder. He bragged about his preparation, and thought that the old suspected nothing of his plain of terror and mayhem. The narrator who is aware of what is it to be mad, but cannot bring himself to believe that he himself is insane. He believes that since he is able to recollect and present every detail of the events that took place proves that he is not insane. He believes that he is sane because of the manner in which he carried out the crime of murder.
His reason for wanting the old man dead is without motive. "I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire" the narrator thinks that he has no clear motive and that he loves the old man. The truth in the matter is that he knows he cannot bring himself to admit to the point that only a mad man would kill someone just because of the way their eyes looked. " It was not the old man who vexed me, but his evil eye." He tries to explain his reason without implicating himself. The narrator makes us aware of his illness by presenting us with the fact that his sense of hearing is acute. " I heard all things in the heavens and in the earth." Who in their right mind have the hearing capability to hear sounds in heaven or hell to further prove a point of insanity? One must also asked oneself, who in their right mind would go through such a process to kill some old man, just because of an old eye? By telling the story in such detail, the narrator proves himself mad.
The title of the story in itself presents a puzzle with its title. Which heart was the author referring to? He first hears the old man"s heart in the room on the night of the murder. But the heart in question belongs to the narrator. Due to his heightened sense of hearing and the police refusal to leave his fear of being caught increases his heartbeat. As the sound grew louder and louder, he became uneven and suspected that the officer heard the sound and decided to neglect it, because they were making a mockery of his horror. To him anything was better than going through with the agony and pain of the pounding hear beat. So in the end his conscience led him to admit to his crime.
The story tries to tell many stories, but the one point that I gathered from the story is that one should not hate or dislike someone simply for the way they look. I sometimes asked myself why do racism exists and the story paints a clear picture of the insanity that goes on in the minds of racist individuals. Simply wanting to kill a fellow human being, just because of the way they look is insane no matter how people try to rationalize it.
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