The Importance of a First Person Point of View in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart
It is extremely crucial for an author to wisely utilize the literary elements to convey his message clearly. Through the proper choice, a fiction writer can easily make his or her storytelling more effective and powerful. A perfect example would be Edgar Allan Poe and how he used the point of view to express the themes of the story. In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe used first person point of view to demonstrate the story’s most dominant themes: madness, paranoia and guilty.
Edgar Allan Poe used the first person point of view in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” wherein the narrator is involved in the action of the story. This chosen point of view was very important in revealing the themes, as all three themes are grounded on the narrator. The nameless narrator is in the center of all these themes; he was the one who is mad, paranoid and guilty. The first person point of view was crucial because if the story was told from another person’s point of view, the readers would not be able to grasp the extent of the narrator’s condition. Poe was aware that proof of insanity, paranoia and guilt would not be properly provided by an outsider; only the narrator himself can demonstrate all those themes clearly.
One of the themes of the story is madness. Since the beginning of the story, the narrator has tried to convince the readers that he is not mad; he was simply “dreadfully nervous” (Poe). He argued that what appeared as madness was really just a result of “sharpened” senses (Poe). Also, he tried to convince the readers that the careful way he committed the crime was proof of his sanity. He asserted that “madmen know nothing,” and he was not mad because he was intelligent enough to carefully commit a seemingly perfect crime (Poe). Unfortunately, his efforts had a contradictory result. In his attempt to prove his sanity, he proved to the readers that he was indeed mad. The readers do not need an account of another person to convince them that the narrator was mad. Through the first person point of view, the narrator himself has proven that point.
Poe also used the first person point of view to illustrate to the readers how paranoid and guilty the main character was. The madness, paranoia and guilt actually overlap in the story. What Poe described as the “over-acuteness of the senses” had become not only proof of madness, but also of paranoia and guilt. For instance, after the murder had been committed, the narrator continued to hear the beating of a dead man’s heart. While only a mad person would consider the beating of a dead heart possible, only a paranoid person would be constantly disturbed by a sound which no longer existed. According to the narrator, the ringing “continued and became more distinct” (Poe). The paranoia was also a result of the guilt. While the policemen engaged in a pleasant conversation, the narrator believed that the sound was getting louder and their pleasant disposition was rather malicious. The narrator felt he was being mocked, though in reality he was simply being overwhelmed by his own guilt. In this case, the first person point of view clearly revealed how paranoid and guilty the narrator was. Due to Poe’s use of the first hand account, the readers could authentically experience the paranoia and guilt which have overtaken the character.
In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allan Poe used the first person point of view to express the themes of the story. This point of view was effective, for it clearly showcased the condition of the narrator. It is only from the account of the narrator wherein madness, paranoia and guilt can be thoroughly demonstrated because it was the narrator who directly experienced such condition. Hence, the choice of the first person point of view made Poe’s storytelling more effective.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The Online Literature Library. 2 March 2009 <http://www.literature.org/authors/poe-edgar-allan/tell-tale-heart.html>