The Tell-Tale Heart vs The Country of the Blind: Compare & Contrast
We shall compare and contrast two novels, in terms of how they depict disability and what consequences are faced because of that. The two short stories, “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe and “The Country of the Blind” by H.G. Wells, addressing the disability and disabled characters, are taken for the discussion. The similarity or difference that is found in both the short stories is the threat exposed to the individuals, which the authors reveal through the texts’ disability characteristics.
In The Tell-Tale Heart, disability is portrayed as a threat to the society, while, in The Country of the Blind, ignorance is viewed to be more as a threat than the disability itself. However, even though Poe’s depiction of disability causes death, Wells’ does not. It is the individual choice of the character to choose a path that might lead to death but not the disability or the disabled character; nevertheless, it was still the cause for all consequences.
The Tell-Tale Heart depicts an unnamed psychological character, the narrator, who has an intense urge to kill an old man, living with him, because of his insanity and obsession with the ‘vulture’ eye of the old man. Even though he was mad, he manages to hide the corpse wisely from the neighborhood and authorities, acting as normal as an ordinary man. However, the guilt in his heart and the psychological madness within him heightens his senses, causing him paranoid delusions of the heartbeat noise, which he assumes to be of the old man’s. The noise drives him insane to the extent that he finally could not bear the sound and confesses to the authorities of his murder, ultimately revealing the corpse. The story’s depiction of disability as a cause for the death of the old is mainly attributed to the mental conflict arising within the narrator’s mind as a result of his insanity and his obsession with unadorned entities. What the author makes clear to the readers is that the disability, particularly, psychological illness, is certainly a threat to the society, which is a completely unacceptable or intensified concept. Similarly, the imperfection of the old man, the vulture eye, as mentioned by the narrator has been the driving force for his insanity to be heightened, causing a death threat.
In The Country of the Blind, the author depicts a disabled village, an outcast in a valley, where everyone is blind for many generations. When Nunez, the sighted protagonist arrives at the land, he is baffled by the ignorance of the village people and does everything to make them realize their sightlessness, but ultimately fails. To top it all, the villagers accuse him of having mental incoherency and reveal an ironical cure for his affected brain – to remove the eyes. Distressed and disappointed, Nunez casts out of the valley with indignation, leaving behind his love and all, with nothing but anger and pity for them. Wells’ depiction of disability seems to show both positive as well as negative consequences to society. His view of disability causing a threat to the society seems to get intensified with the ignorance or lack of understanding among the people.
On analyzing both the novel’s texts, it could be evidence that the authors try to reveal the disability characteristics as a threat in various ways. For instance, Poe finds the insane nature of the narrator to be disturbing and ultimately destructive for the old man, while Wells portrays the disability of the village people to be demeaning and ignorant towards Nunez’s sight, consequently causing him to flee. Even though there is no death in Wells’ story, there is still a threat that causes the protagonist to escape to the valley. However, some of the versions have Nunez being trapped to death in the mountains. Whatsoever, the reasons he flees from his love and the village in which he wished to live as a so-called ‘king’ among blinds were the result of the disabled village peoples and their attitudes of ignorance. The reasons for their ignorance and lack of understanding can be attributed to their disability, which is the blindness, holding them from opening up their minds to reasoning and knowledge.
The treat imposed on the victims in both stories seems to induce various emotions and consequences on the part of the protagonist. Nunez, on account of his accusations, shows anger and sympathy towards the disabled people, marking his own inability to overcome their ignorance. “He felt anger perhaps, anger at the dull course of fate, but also sympathy for her lack of understanding–a sympathy near akin to pity.” (Wells 183). Similarly, the narrator in Poe’s story experiences violent feelings of killing and the subsequent guilt, mainly due to his blatant insanity. Eventually, the results of these emotions are not favorable, as they tend to bring negative effects on the lives of other people.
The characteristics of disability revealed in both the stories are far from being imperfect, as the disabled characters show some sort of perfection or adaptability in their circumstances. When both the authors describe their character’s disability, they also show a few characteristics that make them far from being imperfect. For instance, the narrator in Poe’s story is wise enough to conceal his murder in a so-called ‘perfect’ manner that no insane person would do as well as his normality to the police, and his subsequent guiltiness is am attribute of a sane person. “I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which the reposed the corpse of the victim.” (Poe 7). Similarly, the disabled people in the Wells story act shrewdly and precisely with their other senses which is hard for even the sighted Nunes to follow.
Overall, both the stories seem to share the phenomenon of threat, but at different levels, causing different kinds of consequences. As the psychological disability shows some perfection in actions to portray normality, the blind village people tend to overcome their disability through their adaptation to life with their other senses. However, even though both physical and psychological disabilities live a life of survival or existence, with their best possible abilities, they tend to impose some kind of threat to their surroundings, at times in extreme levels, as in the case of Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Tell-Tale Heart. Random House LLC, 2004.
Wells, Herbert George. The Door in the Wall: And Other Stories. The Floating Press, 2011.