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A Story of Guilt

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William Morden
Professor Alina Patriche
ENC1102, Session 1
4 November 2011
The Tell-Tale Heart: A Story of Guilt
The Tell-Tale Heart is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe about an obsessive murderer and his strange delusions. It is presented in first-person with the killer himself the narrator. Though he has apparently begun the narrative in order to defend the question of his own sanity, his story offers more than a study of disturbed reasoning. He attempts to show that he is not crazy, and that he is fully justified in carrying out the murder of the old man. Though there is no apparent motive, the killer seems almost pressed to present one to his interrogators as if this might somehow help his case. He seems confused when he blurts out, “I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this!” (Poe) Yet, he commits himself to presenting the eye as evil in an attempt to justify his actions. The presumably secondary motive is not presented until much later. He says, “There came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.” This he attributes as the old man’s heart, and it is this beating, “hideous heart” that forces the killer into action both in committing the crime and admitting to the deed. (Poe) Though the killer had originated his plan to rid himself of the old man’s “evil eye”, it is the beating heart that compels him. (Poe) The heart, though presented as the victim’s, actually represents the killer’s evil plot to murder the old man and his final guilt and admission of the crime to police. It is the central focus of the narrative, though the careful craftsmanship of the author would distract the reader from this by attracting them to the frightful insight into the mind of a paranoid killer. Even though the killer claims that the beating heart belongs to his ill-fated victim, we can see, by the detail he gives to the heart’s cadence and the timing of its introduction into the story, that this heart is actually his own beating...