The Tell Tale Heart is a story, on the most basic level, of conflict. There is a mental conflict within the narrator himself (assuming the narrator is male). Through obvious clues and statements, Edgar Allen Poe alerts the reader to the mental state of the narrator, which is insanity. The insanity is described as an obsession (with the old man's eye), which in turn leads to loss of control and eventually results in violence. Poe's use of setting, character, and language reveal that even an insane person feels guilt. Therein lies the theme to The Tell Tale Heart: The emotion of guilt easily, if not eventually, crashes through the seemingly unbreakable walls of insanity.
People tend to think that insane people are beyond the normal realm of reason shared by those who are in their right mind. This is not so; guilt is an emotion shared by all humans. The most demented individuals are not above the feeling of guilt and the havoc it causes to the psyche. At the very beginning when the narrator says, “… nervous- very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am” it shows that feeling are involved even though the man is insane. At the beginning of the story the narrator asks the reader if they think of him mad: "I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?" the more he/she keeps asking the more the reader is convinced that he/she is mentally unstable. The narrator says in the story that he observes the old man every night precisely at midnight. At midnight most people are asleep and while people are sleeping their unconsciousness takes over them.
The narrator wrestles with conflicting feelings of responsibility to the old man and feelings of ridding his life of the man's "Evil Eye”. Although afflicted with overriding fear and derangement, the narrator still acts with kindness toward the old man; however, his kindness may stem more from protecting himself from suspicion of watching the old man every night than from genuine compassion for the old man. The narrator...
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