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Tell-Tale of the Mind

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  • August 10, 2008
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Reading the murder confession sent a chill through my spine: “Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed?--tear up the planks!--here, here!--it is the beating of his hideous heart” (Poe 407)! These are the words of a man who murdered another person whom I believe to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. It is my duty as a highly experienced criminal psychiatrist to explain the motive behind this murder as a psychological disorder, thus making this person not responsible for his actions. However, my esteemed colleague Dr. Mertz disagrees with my diagnosis stating this person does not suffer from a psychological disorder and should in fact be held responsible for his actions. The narrator in Edgar Allen Poe’s “A Tell-Tale Heart” displays delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized behavior, three classic symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, which led to the murder of an old man.

Delusions are one of the primary symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. According to the doctors from the Mayo Clinic staff, people who suffer from this disorder have distorted views of their experiences. They believe these misinterpretations to be true even if they are proven to be wrong. The narrator shows delusional symptoms by saying the old man’s eye is “evil” and “resembles that of a vulture” (404). This vulture eye infuriated and agitated the narrator. Becoming obsessed with this vexing object he announces, “I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever” (404). The narrator makes this decision because he feels threatened by the eye alone and not the old man, which is highly illogical and symptomatic to this disorder.

Hallucinations are also a primary symptom of paranoid schizophrenia. The National Institute of Mental Health states that these hallucinations are imaginary and only the suffering individual can see, hear, smell, or feel. Auditory hallucinations are the most common; hearing things that other people can...