Tell Tale Heart: What Did Poe Mean? Essay

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Jane Doe
Professor Vader
English 200


  Edgar Allan Poe (January 19,1809 - October 7, 1849) was an American writer and poet whose short stories gained him fame and notoriety, even more so posthumously. The majority of his tales are saturated with elements of intrigue, mystery, and the macabre. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is no exception. Poe plays on the reader's emotional and psychological sensibilities by having a central character who coolly details his murderous plot while all the while stating that he is indeed not mad. Does the narrator's constant insisting that he is not mad, paired up with the maniacal obsession of wanting to kill an old man because of his evil-looking eye lead the reader to believe that he is indeed insane? Possibly so. According to a literary critic named Hollie Pritchard, it is not the idea but the form of his madness that is of importance to the story (Pritchard 144). It is easy for a reader to place sole importance on story's element of insanity as a character motivator in "The Tell-Tale Heart". In addition to the tale's theme of sanity and insanity, Poe acquaints the readers with two others:Guilt and Innocence, and Time being the narrator's true foe, not Death.
    The Tell-Tale Heart details the story of a seemingly mad individual who kills his friend for no apparent reason other than the fact that he could not deal with the old man's silvery eye. After murdering the old man, the narrator still hears his beating heart from underneath the floor where he buried him. Overcome with guilt, he finally ends up confessing his heinous crime to the police. At first glance, a reader can assume that Poe meant this tale to be a straightforward parable about self-betrayal by one's conscience and guilt. From the very beginning of the tale. the narrator does not pretend to be innocent, according to literary critic Paige Matthey Bynum:

The first thing we should notice about Poe's narrator is that he is that his monologue is actually a long...

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