The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Poe writes this story from the perspective of the murderer of the old man. When an author creates a situation where the protagonist tells a personal account, the overall impact of the story is heightened. The narrator, in this particular story, adds to the overall effect of horror by continually stressing to the reader that he or she is not mad, and tries to convince us of that fact by how carefully this brutal crime was planned and executed. Even though Poe stated in the first few lines of the story that the person narrating the story is insane, it is only when the narrator tells the reader about his preparations for murdering the old man, that we know the extent of his insanity. The narrator states, "I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?" The narrator explains it as merely some disease which has sharpened his senses that has made people call him crazy. The narrator tells us, "how wisely I proceeded-with what caution," "I turned the latch of his door and opened it-oh, so gently!" "How cunningly I thrust my head in! I Moved it slowly, very slowly," "I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously-cautiously." Taking a whole hour to intrude his head into the room, he asks, "Ha !-would a madman be as wise as this?" He does not show wisdom. Instead an over zealous care is taken to ensure the murder. His careful preparations, he believes prove him to be sane, but this only reassures the reader of his insanity. A comment that he makes that reinforces the idea that he is insane is that he regards the eye as a separate being from the old man. He states, "It was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye." It seemed that he could not kill the old man unless he could see his eye. At another time he says, "I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work." Work is referring to killing the old man, as if it was a job that must be completed. This suggested that may be there was something other than his insanity that is obscuring his sense of reality. Even though he takes great pains not to disturb the old man's sleep, he must see the "Evil Eye" open. In his mind the "Evil Eye" and the old man are two different entities. No doubt the narrator is clever in his insanely scheme, and he is proud of this cleverness. "I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye-not even his-could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out-no stain of any kind-no bloodspot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all-ha! ha! ". Since the story is told by the main character, the happening is believable and does not appear to be a concocted story. Presenting the reader with this point of view is vital to understanding the narrator's madness and the killing of the old man. Human nature is a delicate balance of light and dark or good and evil. Most of the time this precarious balance is maintained; however, when there is a shift, for whatever reason, the dark or perverse side surfaces. How and why this "dark side" emerges differs from person to person. What may push one individual "over the edge" will only cause a raised eyebrow in another. In this case, it is the "vulture eye" of the old man that makes the narrator's blood run cold. It is this irrational fear which evokes the dark side, and eventually leads to murder. The narrator plans, executes and conceals the crime; however, "what has been hidden within the self will not stay concealed...." (Silverman 208) The narrator speaks of an illness that has heightened the senses: "Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heavens and in the earth. I heard many things in hell." The narrator repeatedly insists that he(she) is not mad; however the reader soon realizes that the fear of the vulture eye has consumed the narrator, who has now become a victim to the madness which he had hoped to elude.