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. 


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