Literary Essay The Tell-Tale Heart

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Tell Tale heart close reading The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe depicts the story of a murderer who appears to be mad, and yet the murderer spends the story trying to convince the reader that he is actually a sane person.

In writing this story Poe does a great job of capturing exactly how someone who did just commit such a heinous act, especially someone who was most likely in the wrong state of mind from the get go.

And as noted in the introduction to this section, this story shows the narrator's attempt to rationalize his irrational behavior.

The story begins with the narrator admitting that he is a "very dreadfully nervous" type.

Throughout this excerpt the narrator describes himself as nervous, and yet at the same time, he seems incredibly excited when he can discuss how he went about killing the old man and what preparations he took to avoid being caught.

He goes from nervously speaking of what it is that makes a person mad, and what madmen are like, and yet when he begins to talk of how he killed the old man, the tone shifts to one with more excitement that nervousness.

This type is found throughout all of Poe's fiction, particularly in the over-wrought, hyper-sensitive Roderick Usher in "The Fall of the House of Usher." As with Usher, the narrator here believes that his nervousness has "sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them." Thus, he begins by stating that he is not mad, yet he will continue his story and will reveal not only that he is mad, but that he is terribly mad.

His sensitivities allow him to hear and sense things in heaven, hell, and on earth that other people are not even aware of.

The story begins boldly and unexpectedly: "I loved the old man," the narrator says, adding, "He had never wronged me." Next, he reveals that he was obsessed with the old man's eye — "the eye of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it." Without any real motivation, then, other than his psychotic obsession, he decides to take the old man's life.

Even though he knows that we, the readers, might consider him mad for this decision, yet he plans to prove his sanity by showing how "wisely" and with what extreme precaution, foresight, and dissimulation he executed his deeds.


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