The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective-fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.
The Tell Tale Heart is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, the narrator remains nameless and sexless in the story. He or she takes care of an old man with whom the relationship is unclear. At the beginning of the story, the narrator says that he loved the old man but he hates his eye and he or she believes that the eye is evil. He or she confesses that the one and only reason for killing the old man is his eye: “Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees – I made up my mind to take the life of the old man”.
The narrator begins the story by trying to convince the reader that he or she is not insane. The fact that the old man’s eye is the only motivation to murder proves that the narrator is… well… insane. For seven nights precisely at midnight, the narrator enters the old man’s room to observe the eye. On the eighth night the narrator enters the room and the old man sat suddenly in his bed, crying out “who’s there? ” the narrator stood still for over an hour, as did the old man who did not lie back down.
Then he or she opened the lantern slightly and the ray was on the eye only. This made the narrator go furious and he moved to the old man who shrieked once, he or she dragged him off his bed and killed him. The old man’s body was chopped and buried under the planks of the floor. The police came because of a shriek reported by a neighbor. He or she invited them and they sat chatting, after a while the narrator started hearing the old man’s heart beating from under the floor. The heart beat grew louder and louder, finally he or she confesses of killing the old man.
At the beginning of the story the narrator asks the reader if they think of him mad: “I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? ” the more he or she keeps asking the more the reader is convinced that he or she is mentally unstable. The narrator says in the story that he observes the old man every night precisely at midnight. At midnight most people are asleep and while people are sleeping their unconsciousness takes over them. The old man’s eye might be the narrator, for when he or she describes the feelings of the old man as if they are his or her feelings.
The old man’s room represents the unconsciousness because its face is imagined as something dark and unfamiliar to humans: “His room was as black as pitch with thick darkness”. The narrator says in the story that he or she knew that the old man was scared, it is not possible for him or her to know the feeling of the old man unless it was him or her: “It was not a groan of pain, or grief – oh, no! – it was the low, stifled sound that arise from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well”.
He or she enters the room and opened the lantern, the ray was on the old man’s eye only. He or she can clearly see the eye now. So the old man’s room is the unconsciousness and there should be a wall between the unconsciousness and the consciousness, when he or she enters the room the wall is broken, he or she saw his or her other self clearly. The narrator says that he or she can hear the old man’s heart beat clearly, which is impossible, it was his own heart beating: “Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker, and louder and louder every instant”.
Then the narrator describes the murder where he or she says that he yelled and the old man shrieked once only: “He shrieked once – once only”. Then he or she drags his body. The police came later on, they say to him/her that a neighbor heard a shriek: “A shrike had been heard by a neighbor during the night”. This means that it was the narrator’s shriek because it was heard only once. If it was both the old man and the narrator’s it wouldn’t be just one shriek which proves again it’s only the narrator. He/she is with the officers when he/she starts to imagine hearing voices coming from under the bed where he buried the old man.
If there is a voice the officers would’ve heard it too but they did not hear it, this means that it is all in the narrator’s head. He/she is uncomfortable and starts swinging the chairs. He/she say that his/her nervousness was very obvious but the officers did not notice it which is impossible and this means that the officers are just a creation of his imagination. The whole thing was just in the narrator head and none of it is true. The narrator is suffering from schizophrenia which is proved in the context of the story.
Schizophrenia is a humorous brain disorder characterized by delusional thinking and unique but unpopular perceptions. The old man’s eye is the mirror of the narrator and he/she did not like his/her other self. He/she decides to end his fear by getting rid of the old man’s eye and to get rid of the eye he/she has to enter the world of unconsciousness. Personally I really HATED this story but if you really analyze it its not so bad but definitely is no my kind of story… It is funny and also interesting that from such a horrible story you can learn a lot of things.
And what I did like was how Poe made us understand all these “ironies and metaphors” and as the story continues we realized each of the mysteries of history and we started seeing what the author wanted us to understand. I think what made Poe choose this type of literature (dark, mysterious and macabre) was because he was very miserable because his parents died when he was young and was adopted by the Allan family and then he got married and his wife died.
When he died nobody knew from what he died but they say is was because of alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents…Poor guy?. But after all he’s been through he ended up by being a very very successful man. Poe and his works influenced literature in the United States and around the world, as well as in specialized fields, such as cosmology and cryptography. Poe and his work appear throughout popular culture in literature, music, films, and television. A number of his homes are dedicated museums today.