Analyzing The Tell Tale Heart
Is a man too calm to be insane? The man in "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe seems to think so. He is a classic example of Poe's unreliable narrator, a man who cannot be trusted to tell the objective truth of what is happening. His unreliability becomes immediately evident in the first paragraph of the story, when he insists on his clarity of mind and attributes any signs of madness to his nervousness and oversensitivity, particularly in the area of hearing. However, as soon as he finishes his declaration of sanity, he offers an account that has a series of apparent logical gaps that can only be explained by insanity. In his writings, Poe often sought to capture the state of mind of psychotic characters, and the narrator of this story exhibits leaps of reasoning that more resemble the logic of dreams than they do the thought processes of a normal human being. This man shows all signs of insanity with his emotional instability, irony, and use of vocabulary.
The narrator's emotional instability provides a clear counterargument to his assertions of good judgment. Almost never does he respond in the manner that one would expect. He is so bothered by the old man's vulture-like eye that his loathing overcomes his love for the man, leading him to premeditate his murder. Later, when he finally succeeds in killing the victim, he becomes positively cheerful, feeling that he has accomplished his goal cleverly and with the rationality that he associates with sanity. However, the unsuspecting behavior of the policemen suggests that the narrator has become essentially unaware of his behavior and his surroundings. Since he cannot maintain the distance between reality and his inner thoughts, he mistakes his mental agitation for physical agitation and misinterprets the innocent chatter of the policemen for malevolence. Nevertheless, he imagines the whole time that he has correctly and rationally interpreted all the events of the story...
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