The Tale-Tell Heart Analysis

The Tale-Tell Heart Analysis
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Edgar Allen Poe is the quintessential gothic writer who embodies the darker impulses of people, the nature of the mind, and the inner workings that make people behave in surprising and, sometimes, horrific ways. Poe often dealt with the workings of the unstable, stressed, and most often, guilty minds of his characters. This remains true in his story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” This story details the account of a single incident where a man retells how and why he killed a kindly old man who had taken him in. The entire tale focuses on the main character, the killer, needing to justify his actions and that once he shares that tale then everyone would understand and even support what he had done. He claimed to have “loved” the old man and meant him no real harm, but his “evil eye,” the man’s cataract-veiled blind eye, was something that needed to be “killed.” He had been a victim of the “eye” for too long (Poe 1-8). There are many interesting ways to analyze this work; however, it is definitely important to discuss the messages sent by this piece, particularly those relating to relating to interactions with strangers and other human beings, our attitudes towards what is foreign, and, most significantly, the nature of our own self-defense and suspicions.


There would be no story to tell had the Old Man not given the narrator a place to stay and welcoming him into his life; had he not he likely would not have ended up dead. However, this sets a precedent that might act as a warning in regards to trusting strangers and offering help to those you know nothing about, after all, they could be crazy. Today we live in a very dangerous time where people are taken, harmed, and killed because they interacted with a stranger; these strangers are known to lure people in by being in need of help. Poe essentially is telling people that human beings are unpredictable and prone to inhuman and awful behavior. People have always been wary of what is new, strange, or foreign, be it people, places, or concepts. There is also a sort of efficiency in which the narrator deals with the Old Man’s body. He kills him, cuts him up, hides his body within the floorboards, and has no mess to worry about when the police arrive (Poe 6-7). That seems to infer that this is not the fist body that this narrator has hidden away. The most significant element to “The Tell-Tale Heart” has to do with the killer and his suspicions; these paranoid suspicions are what cost the Old Man his life. The Old Man’s “evil eye” is equated to that of a vulture, a death eating- scavenger, something evil, but, also, something penetrating (Poe 1). As if the eye was seeing more into the unstable narrator than he would prefer. Killing the man and chopping him into bits would spare him the gaze of the “evil eye,” which he separates fully from the reality of taking the man’s life; He is killing the eye, not the man. He is fearful of being caught. He is clearly not sane, despite his arguments to the contrary, He believes is perceptions are sign of his definitive sanity, not a side-effect of madness. He premeditated murder for a week; he stalked his prey and believed that the Old Man’s pounding heart could actually be heard by others. More likely it was his own heartbeat, either in fear or anticipation that he hears. The sound he hears he believes is the sound of the Old Man’s fearful heart, which is also the mistake that he makes when he is speaking with the police. He believes the pounding drum beats, getting louder and louder, is the Old Man’s heart beating from within the floorboards; when, in fact, it is likely his own guilty heart-pounding towards his inevitable confession. The narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” never once identifies himself as the villain in the story. He confidently led police around the house, even asking them to sit in the very room where the murder had taken place. He presents himself as the protagonist of the story defending himself from the “evil eye” of the Old Man (Poe 1). This is a man who is struggling more with himself and his own sanity, he simply transferred much of that struggle to the Old Man and the eye that offended him. This is where the doppelganger element comes into play; the struggle of someone fighting with the two sides of himself. This is reflected, specifically, in the narrator’s ultimate confession of a crime he claimed was necessary and just only a few sentences before.


In the end, Edgar Allen Poe’s works are ideal for analysis and discussion. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is no exception. It forces us to look at this confession of a killer from the killer’s perspective, which is rather rare. It is a look inside the paranoid, suspicious, deluded mind of someone losing their hold on sanity. It, also, shows us what such thoughts can lead to. The narrator tells his story with every confidence that it would prove his innocence, and yet it has the opposite effect. His retelling not only identifies him as guilty of cold-blooded murder but that he is very much insane. Ultimately, the “The Tale-Tell Heart” is a fantastic representation of the inner workings of a mentally unstable individual capable of taking lives and validating it with the imaginings of that madness. Works Cited Poe, Edgar Allen. “The Tale-Tell Heart.” (1843): 1-8. Print.