Why Is the Narrator an Unreliable One "Tell Tale Heart"?

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Why is the narrator an unreliable one?

1. He is not a reliable narrator because he is insane. Though he repeatedly states that he is sane, the reader suspects otherwise from his bizarre reasoning, behavior, and speech. ‘‘True—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?'' The reader realizes through Poe’s description of the narrator’s extreme nervousness that the protagonist has in fact descended into madness, as anxiety is a common symptom of insanity. He apparently suffers from some form of paranoia. Besides, the narrator claims that he loves the old man and has no motive for the murder other than his growing dislike of a cloudy film over one of the old man’s eyes. His madness becomes explicit when he explains his illogical decision to ‘‘take the life of the old man’’ in order to free himself from the curse of the eye. He demonstrates his mental imbalance as he commits a murder without a rational motive. More importantly, what the narrator considers evidences of a sane person—the meticulous and thoughtful plans required to carry out a ghastly and unpleasant deed—are interpreted instead by the reader to be manifestations of insanity.

2. He is not a reliable narrator as readers are made to witness his vast internal contradictions. At one point, the speaker claims that he pities old man his "mortal terror," but then immediately adds "although I chuckled at heart." At another pivotal point in story, the main character examines the old man's corpse thoroughly. He is convinced and, in turn convinces the reader, that the old man is "stone dead." Yet he will later act under the belief that the old man's heart still beats. What is clear, then, is that as the reader "listens" to the narrator, he is hearing the words of a madman.

3. He is not a reliable narrator because he is emotionally unstable. Poe heightens the tension and fear running through the mind of the narrator. There is a clear connection...
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