Analysis of “The Tell Tale Heart”
Edgar Allan Poe uses symbols, figures of speech, and the setting of the story in “The Tell Tale Heart” to reveal hidden morals and explain how the nameless, genderless, and ageless narrator felt while plotting and carrying out the murder of an old man. The narrator was driven crazy because of an old man’s vulture eye. He explained, “I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever” (Poe). Throughout the entire story, the paranoid narrator is fixated on defending his sanity to the reader by explaining how carefully he planned out the old man’s murder. After carefully observing the old man in his sleep for seven nights, he strikes on the eighth night with precision and the old man is dead. He buries him under the floorboards in the bedroom where he was murdered. When the police come after being told of a shriek coming from the home, the narrator becomes paranoid that the old man’s heart is beating loudly under the floorboards. Not being able to take the guilt any longer, he rips up the boards to reveal the body and admits to the old man’s murder. The old man’s eye is most obvious symbol in Poe’s short fiction, “The Tell Tale Heart.” The narrator explains that the old man’s eye is like the eye of a vulture; dull and hazy. The eye could have been a medical condition but more than likely was a symbol of the man’s outlook on life. The wording of the story seems to be filtered through the filmy eye which causes confusion and frustration with the text. Although the eye seems dull and lifeless it has strange effects on the narrator. He feels that whenever the eye glances at him that his blood runs cold and a chill slowly creeps into his bones. The narrator explains, “He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it” (Poe). Although a vulture preys on the dead and the sick, the narrator was very upset and afraid of the vulture eye. This could represent how he feels about himself which would explain why he is so adamantly trying to convince the audience as well as his self that he is not mad. The old man’s heart seems to be closely related to his creepy eye. When the narrator shines the lantern on the eye it causes the old man’s heart to race. The heart can also represent the sound that the narrator suspects was alerting the police that the eye was under the floorboards. The narrator mentions a watch four times in the story. Watches are visual and auditory representations of time. Each tick of the watch is one moment closer to the old man’s death as well to the narrator’s actions being revealed. The narrator is obsessed with controlling the timing of things. He is in control of when to end the life of the old man. The old man’s heart is linked with a watch and counting down to his death when the narrator says, “now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton” (Poe) when explaining the sound of what he thought was the dead old man’s heart under the floorboards. Poe’s stories usually have a strong connection between the narrator’s mind and the setting (Shmoop University). Most of the story takes place in the old man’s bedroom which is described as so dark that one cannot see anything. The narrator is so enveloped in his paranoia and guilt that his mind is dark and cannot be read; he is focusing only on trying to express that he is not insane. The narrator also claims to know what the old man is thinking or feeling like when he says, “Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief --oh, no! --it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well” (Poe). Instead of saying how he feels about things, the narrator uses the old man to express his feelings (Shmoop University). His unclear mind steers one to believe that although he insists that he is sane;...
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