The Use of Symbolism, Irony and Imagery to Represent the Cruel Mind of the Narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart, a Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe

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What goes on in a killers mind? This question wonders upon people in society today. Every day a killer has the intention of harming or murdering an innocent person. Many of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories are dark sided, Throughout the short story, “The Tell- Tale Heart“ by Edgar Allan Poe, the narrator produces a massive build-up that keeps the reader restrained in its suspense He uses symbolism, irony, and imagery to represent how horrifyingly cruel the narrator’s mind truly is. Poe was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts on January 19, 1809. He lived a rough life. Poe’s dad abandoned his family when he was two years old. That same year his mother past, he was adopted by the Allan family He went on to marry his cousin, which was typical in the years he lived in. She later died from the disease tuberculosis. Poe‘s early life and society may have influenced him to write stories such as “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

People in society express their emotions through things they love to do. Poe loves to write, so he expresses his feelings through his literature He channels his inner dark human nature with his writings, which comes from his early life. Poe uses symbolism in this story to capture his ideas. For example, the narrator describes the old man’s eye as pale blue, with a film or veil over it, The old man in this case could have an ulcer, but symbolically he has problems with his internal vision or viewpoint on the world The eye in the story symbolizes power. The eye makes the narrators blood run cold, and the marrow of his bones are chilled. In this example of symbolism, Poe states “replaced the boards so cleverly so cunningly, that no human eye — not even his — could have detected anything wrong”.

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The narrator means the eye could see secret or hidden things at one point of a time. The narrator hid the old man’s body in the floor boards, thinking no one would find out. The narrator defines the old man’s eye as a “vulture eye” (Poe 1), Poe provides his readers with a comparison of the eye to a vulture. Vultures prey on the dead or sick and eat weakened animals The vision of a vulture is tremendous and can spot his prey miles away. By comparing the two, Poe means the old man’s eye can see well for the condition that it is in Another symbol Poe uses in the story is the heart. The heart symbolizes a protector of the vulture like eye The heart beats whenever it is alerted by the vulture eye. At the start of the story, the narrator beams a light on the open eye. When the beam hits the eye, the heart beats faster.

The fear of the narrator grows At the end of the story when the policeman arrive at the house, the heart beats again to alert the eye that help is here It also put more fear into the narrator, which contributed to him confessing to the murder. Poe uses irony to develop his theme rhroughout the story. The narrator repetitively expresses that he is not angry or not insane, This is ironic because he describes his actions and purposes for committing the murder of the old man. The narrator is displaying his insanity, Another piece of irony Poe uses in the story is that the narrator mentions that he loves the old man This is very ironic because it is very hard to believe that the narrator would kill someone he loves. In society, today love is something that comes and goes. Love is rushed into now in days People in the past were more patient with everything and cherished them.

The narrator in the story says he loves the old man, but he really doesn’t. Poe also describes the bed and the bedroom as a part of irony. The symbolization Poe uses is the total opposite of what beds and bedrooms should be about. The narrator disrupts the old man’s sleep by smothering him. The narrator violates bedroom protocol by abusing the defenselessness of one who is sleeping. People sleep well when feeling safe. Usually, bedrooms are the safe place for people. Poe reverses the symbol of the bed and bedroom being safe by using the bed as a weapon. The bedroom is now cruel and disturbing The narrator reference’s the watch multiple times in the story. The watch is a visual image of time. Poe uses the watch in the story for the time of day. The tell tales of time, and the watch watches time. Poe uses the time in the story to watch upon death. The tick of the watch is a movement closer to death that all humans face in society. Poe confirms this by stating “A watch‘s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine”.

The deceptive narrator tells numerous lies that are obvious in countless ways. He states “It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! a madman have been so wise as this?”. This statement indicates that the narrator is indeed insane. The narrator seems overly anxious to prove that he is not angry. Anyone who would go to the trouble to take a full hour to stick his head inside a door to kill a man must be insane. In the short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” Poe displays his dark human nature throughout. The narrator in the story states “I found the eye always closed, and so it was impossible to do the work, for it was not the old man who vexed me but his Evil Eye”. The “Evil Eye” in the story is described as a vulture, which prey on the sick or dead, but in fact the eye can’t be evil.

If a person believes in the “Evil Eye”, they may be mentally ill, and if a person finds the “Evil Eye” a reason to commit a murder, then the person has lost touch with reality, Poe uses a reference to the great myth of the Greek goddess Medusa in which the narrator says “Yes, he was stone, stone dead”. The narrator kills the old man with the bed and believes he is as still as stone. This means the man is dead, such as the myth of Medusa if you look her in the eyes you will turn into stone. In conclusion, Poe’s story “The Tell-Tale Heart“ shows his dark side of human nature. Each of Poe’s stories is in high demand. Poe uses symbolism, irony, and imagery to represent how horrifyingly cruel the narrator’s mind truly is. Poe‘s early life really contributes to his writing in his later years.

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The Use of Symbolism, Irony and Imagery to Represent the Cruel Mind of the Narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart, a Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe. (2023, May 18). Retrieved from

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