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“A Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe was written in 1843 and is one of Poe’s most popular works of art. This short story, like many of Poe’s other pieces of literature, is dark and twisted. This story is about the events leading to the death of an old man with an “evil eye” and the events that occur after the narrator kills the old man. The narrator is the prime character of this short story, who repeatedly tries to convince us that he is a sane man although he proves otherwise, by convincing himself that he must kill the old man that he claims to love because of this evil eye. The narrator also hears the old man’s heart beating louder and louder after he had been deceased and chopped up in several pieces. This does not sound like a man who is in his right mind, but according to him he is as sane as can be and has a logical reason for murdering the old man which is ridding them both of this evil pale blue eye. In this particular short story, Poe uses techniques such as first-person narrative, imagery, and symbolism to focus his readers attention to the insanity of the narrator.
“A Tell-Tale Heart” is a short horror story which is told in the first-person point of view. This monologue is told from the perspective of the narrator who has committed a murder and who tries to convince his listeners that he is not mad. This narrator does not have a name and remains quite a mystery throughout the entire story. By knowing almost nothing about the narrator, Poe allows his readers to put themselves in the mind of this murderer to create a more suspenseful experience. Creating a story from a first-person point of view creates a bond between the reader and the narrator. Poe makes it seem as if the narrator is explaining to us personally why he committed this crime and trying to convince us that he had an ethical reason for killing this man. From the beginning of the story to the end, the narrator repeatedly and desperately tries to convince not only the readers, but himself that he is not insane, “Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story” (Poe 64). By being able to tell the story “calmly” means that he cannot be insane, according to himself.
There are many examples of imagery in this short story, which allows the readers to see and hear what the narrator is experiencing. The most described form of imagery is the eye. The narrator says, “It was open –wide, wide open –and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness –all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot” (Poe 65). This lets us picture what is terrifying the narrator so much to where he feels that he must kill the old man to rid himself of this terrible eye. The readers can assume by the way the narrator describes the old man’s eye, that the man has some sort of condition which is causing him to lose his sense of vision in that eye. The narrator, then goes into detail about the sound, according to him is the old man’s beating heart. “I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage” (Poe 66). He talks about this sound before and after he kills the old man. Hearing a beating heart of a dead man, so loud it reminds him of a drum goes to show that this narrator is in fact clinically insane. Poe uses great forms of imagery to really allow the readers in envision this “evil eye” and to hear this awful, drum like beating heart which enables his readers to connect to the twisted narrator.
Poe’s readers can interpret many things from the symbolism he portrays in this short story. The main one is the beating heart, this symbolizes the narrator’s guilt he feels when about to commit the murder and afterwards when the police are in the house. The narrator insists that it is the heart of the old man beating, but in fact it is the sound of his own heartbeat growing louder and louder with the torment of guilt from his coconscious. Poe does not flat out say this in this story but readers can interpret that the heart beat is of the narrator because the man is obviously not in his right state of mind, and the readers can conclude this for many reasons and one being that when he hears this heartbeat, he instantly believes that it is of the old man who he had just killed. The fact that he hears his own heartbeat beating loudly does show that he is not a vicious killer, although he did kill a man over his appearance, he does however, feel some sense of guilt by his wrong doing. The police come to investigate the house, the narrator at first feels calm and confident that he will get away with this crime. However, this is when he hears the heartbeat become louder and eventually the narrator has a breakdown,” Louder, louder, louder! Suddenly I could bear it no longer. I pointed at the boards and cried, “Yes! Yes, I killed him. Pull up the boards and you shall see! I killed him. But why does his heart not stop beating?! Why does it not stop!?” (Poe 67). He confesses to the murder to relieve himself from his guilt, and to clear his conscious.
The author uses many literary devices for such a short story to convey that the narrator is in fact insane despite him trying to convince the readers otherwise. Poe uses the first-person point of view to let his readers enter the mind of the narrator, imagery to help the readers experience what the narrator is experiencing himself, and symbolism to allow his reads to interpret what he is trying to portray about this narrator in our own way of thinking. Ultimately, we all know that the narrator has a mental disorder or disease that causes him to not be in his right state of mind, we also know that he killed a man cause of his eye which makes him a murderer. But just think, if something was telling you that a part of someone you loved was evil, and was out to get you and the only way to save yourself was to get rid of the person completely, would that make you a vicious murderer or would that make you a cautious human being?

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