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Tell-Tale Heart Essay, Research Paper

The Tell-Tale Heart

Blind Insanity Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” is a short story about how a murderer’s conscience overtakes him and whether the narrator is insane or if he suffers from over acuteness of the senses. Poe suggests the narrator is insane by the narrator’s claims of sanity, the narrator’s actions bring out the narrative irony of the story, and the narrator is insane according to the definition of insanity as it applies to “The Tell Tale Heart”. First, Poe suggests the narrator is insane by his assertions of sanity. For example, the narrator declares because he planned the murder so expertly he could not be insane. He says, “Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen how wisely I proceeded-with what caution-with what foresight-with what dissimulation I went to work!” In addition, every night at midnight the narrator slowly went into the room of the old man. He claims this was done so wisely that he could not be insane. The narrator thinks that if a murder is carefully planned then the murderer is not insane. Also, the narrator claims he suffers from over acuteness of the senses. Regarding the sound of the old man’s beating heart, the narrator says, “And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses? –now, I say, there came to my ears a low dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton”. The narrator claims he is not imagining the sound but he is hearing it because his senses are so sharp. The narrator believes he is justified in killing the old man because the man has an Evil Eye. The narrator claims the old man’s eye made his blood run cold and the eye looked as if it belonged to a vulture. Poe shows the narrator is insane because the narrators’ actions bring out the narrative irony used in “The Tell Tale Heart”. Through the use of narrative irony Poe shows reason not to trust what the narrator says and instead make judgments based on the narrators actions. The narrator plans the murder so well and with such logic but his reasons for murder are irrational. The narrator says he loves the old man but then vows to kill him. Speaking of the murder, the narrator says, “Object there was none. Passion there was none. I love the old man he had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire”. If the narrator is not insane he would not kill a man he loves or want to kill someone with an ugly eye. The narrator’s reason for the murder of the old man is unjustified and deranged. This shows the narrative irony used because someone who commits a murder with so little logic in the reasoning cannot be trusted. The narrator decides to kill the old man because the old man’s eye brings terror upon the narrator whenever he sees it. The narrator’s fear of the eye is irrational. Regarding the eye the narrator says, “Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees-very gradually-I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever”. Also, the narrator hears things which are not actually occurring. As the narrator is looking in the old man’s room at midnight he thinks the old man’s heart is beating so loud that he can hear it from the doorway and it keeps growing louder and louder in his ears. He says, “But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me-the sound would be heard by a neighbor”. It is not possible for a heart to beat loud enough so someone standing in a doorway could hear it at all. Therefore, it is apparent the narrator does not suffer from over acuteness of the senses but instead he is imagining the sounds he hears. This is also justified by how he hears the beating of the old man’s heart under the floorboards even though he knows the man is dead. Due to this evidence the narrator’s claim of suffering from over acuteness of the senses cannot be trusted. Finally, the definition of insanity as it relates to “The Tell Tale Heart” fits the actions of the narrator. The narrator is insane because his actions are criminally foolish and unreasonable. In addition, the narrator shows many times he suffers from a disorder of the mind which makes him unable to distinguish between right and wrong. Poe suggests this definition of insanity fits the narrator. The narrator is unjustified in his reasoning for killing the old man. He says, “…but 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 narrator likes the old man and cannot kill him unless he can see the Evil Eye. This shows how unreasonable it is that he should kill the old man. Also, killing the old man is a criminally foolish action, therefore the narrator is insane. In the earlier moments of the story, the narrator explains that he hears many things. He says, “Above all was a sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell”. Poe suggests the narrator is hearing voices and noises in his mind. This constitutes a disorder of the narrator’s mind. Also, the narrator’s physical actions while he hears the beating of the heart suggest he is insane. The narrator says, “I paced the floor to and fro with many strides, as if excited to fury by the observation of the men-but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! What could I do? I foamed-I raved-I swore!” The narrator is going mad in his own mind. Poe suggests this because as the narrator is ranting and raving the police are still chatting and smiling. The narrator believes his actions are actually occurring but it is obvious that the swearing, raging, and throwing of the chair are only taking place in his mind. During the act of killing the old man, the narrator says, “I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done”. The narrator commits this tragic act and feels no sense of wrongdoing. The narrator kills the old man and after the murder says, “The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead”. When the police officers are present, the narrator hears the heart of the old man beating from underneath the floorboards. This is impossible because the body had been dismembered and the man was dead. Poe clearly shows that the narrator is insane because he heard noises, which could not possibly have occurred. As the police officers were sitting and talking in the old man’s chamber, the narrator becomes paranoid that the officers suspect him of murder. The narrator says, “I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die”. The narrator is deluded in thinking the officers knew of his crime because his insanity makes him paranoid. In conclusion, Poe shows the insanity of the narrator through the claims of the narrator as to why he is not insane, the actions of the narrator bring out the narrative irony of the story, and the character of the narrator fits the definition of insanity as it applies to “The Tell Tale Heart”. The “Tell Tale Heart” is a story about how insanity can overtake someone’s mind and cause one to behave irrationally.

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