The Use of Setting by the Narrator in "A Tell-Tale Heart"

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The use of setting by the narrator in “A Tell-Tale Heart”

Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Tell-Tale Heart” is about a man, driven by madness, who murders an old man in order to escape his fear. I believe that the narrator chose the time and place of his crime intentionally, for the following reasons: The deed was committed in the dark, which also describes his thoughts. The murderous act was in the old man’s bedroom, with the bed being the murder weapon, in order to achieve redemption. Also, the crime was done during the noiseless hours of the night, so that the narrator could be caught.

I believe that the “black as pitch” (280) darkness is not only a description of the lack of light, but also a description of the narrator’s thoughts. Early on in the text, the narrator explains that he had “made up [his] mind to take the life of the old man” (279). This informs us us that the murder was pre-meditated. The narrator informs us that his idea to commit murder “haunted [him] day and night” (279), leaving the impression that he knew full well how evil his plan was. But obviously not as evil as the “Evil Eye” (279), which is the object of his hatred. Knowing his dark thoughts, the narrator chose this specific time to commit his dark deed. He states that “every night, about midnight” (279) he would check to see if the old man’s eye was open. He would ensure that he was surrounded by darkness by using a “dark lantern, all closed… so that no light shone out” (279). He also chose to kill the old man during this “thick darkness” (280) because at this late hour, the narrator himself is scared. He has admitted to sitting up in his bed “night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall” (280).

The use of the bed as the murder weapon, and the “chamber” (279) itself, could be a glimpse into the narrator’s motive. As previously mentioned, the narrator makes it clear that he is fearful of the night. This fear may be a result from abuse that he has suffered at the hands...
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