Why Is the Narrator an Unreliable One “Tell Tale Heart”?
Why is the narrator an unreliable one? 1. He is not a reliable narrator because he is insane. Though he repeatedly states that he is sane, the reader suspects otherwise from his bizarre reasoning, behavior, and speech. ‘‘True—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? ” The reader realizes through Poe’s description of the narrator’s extreme nervousness that the protagonist has in fact descended into madness, as anxiety is a common symptom of insanity. He apparently suffers from some form of paranoia.
Besides, the narrator claims that he loves the old man and has no motive for the murder other than his growing dislike of a cloudy film over one of the old man’s eyes. His madness becomes explicit when he explains his illogical decision to ‘‘take the life of the old man’’ in order to free himself from the curse of the eye. He demonstrates his mental imbalance as he commits a murder without a rational motive. More importantly, what the narrator considers evidences of a sane person—the meticulous and thoughtful plans required to carry out a ghastly and unpleasant deed—are interpreted instead by the reader to be manifestations of insanity. . He is not a reliable narrator as readers are made to witness his vast internal contradictions. At one point, the speaker claims that he pities old man his “mortal terror,” but then immediately adds “although I chuckled at heart. ” At another pivotal point in story, the main character examines the old man’s corpse thoroughly. He is convinced and, in turn convinces the reader, that the old man is “stone dead. ” Yet he will later act under the belief that the old man’s heart still beats. What is clear, then, is that as the reader “listens” to the narrator, he is hearing the words of a madman. 3.
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He is not a reliable narrator because he is emotionally unstable. Poe heightens the tension and fear running through the mind of the narrator. There is a clear connection between the language used by the narrator and his psychological state. The narrator switches between calm, logical statements and quick, irrational outbursts. Poe effectively conveys panic in the narrator’s voice, and the reader senses uneasiness and growing tension in the story. 4. He is unreliable a narrator because he suffers from hallucinations. The narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” acts as if he had the selective omniscience of a third-person narrator.
Approaching the old man’s bed on the night of the crime, the narrator claims to know what his victim “had been saying to himself. ” Some critics have maintained that the old man does not exist. After all, the narrator tells police that it was he who screamed, and it is not stated that the police actually found a body. The narrator also comes to believe that he can see into the minds of the officers who arrive at the old man’s house. In the last full paragraph of the story we read: “Yet the officers heard not… Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God——No, No! In both cases, the narrators’ futile efforts to take on a perspective outside his natural first-person viewpoint cannot be sustained. He is living in a world of his own construction, and gets consistently tormented by illusions and hallucinations. 5. The narrator is not trustworthy as the story is highly subjective. In ‘‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’’ stimulus in objective sense scarcely exists at all. The story contains only two main characters, both unnamed, and three indistinguishable police officers; even the setting of the narration is left unspecified.
Only the man’s eye motivates the murderer, and that almost wholly through his internal reaction to it. The action too, though decisive, is quickly over, “In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. ’’ In contrast, the intermediate, subjective experience is prolonged to a point where psychologically it is beyond objective measurement. At first the intervals receive conventional description—an ‘‘hour,’’ or ‘‘many minutes’’—but eventually such descriptions become meaningless and duration can be presented only in terms of the experience itself.
Thus, in the conclusion of the story, the ringing in the madman’s ears is ‘‘distinct,’’ then is discovered to be so ‘‘definite’’, and finally grows to such obsessive proportions that it drives the criminal into an emotional and physical frenzy. Throughout the story, not much objective information is given; the experience is simply way subjective. Source: http://iblog. stjschool. org/stories/files/2011/09/The_TellTale_Heart_eNotes. pdf Google Image