Literary Criticism of Tell-Tale Heart

Topics: Edgar Allan Poe, Short story / Pages: 9 (2095 words) / Published: Feb 20th, 2013
Lam 1
Bethany Lam
Mrs. Patrick
American Literature
22 December 2009
Literary Analysis and Criticism of “The Tell-Tale Heart” Human beings have all experienced guilt, the consequence of committing a wrong, and the manipulation it has on decisions. In the short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” author Edgar Allan Poe demonstrates the theme that guilt is strong and has the power to overcome conscience; he uses characterization, the conflict, and symbolism to communicate this message. The characterization of the narrator most clearly shows this theme. In addition to Poe’s use of characterization, his decision to show the struggle the narrator endures with himself reveals the causes of the narrator to succumb to his guilt. The use of symbolism throughout the novel draws attention to the narrator’s guilt and his insanity.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” is told by a first-person narrator who tells of a story in hope of convincing the reader of his sanity though throughout the story, he shows the strong control his guilt has over him and his mind, and ultimately proves his insanity. The narrator describes his plot to kill an old man whom the narrator didn’t hate, but who he desired to kill due to the old man’s “Evil Eye” (Poe 1). The old man’s eye was pale blue and covered with a film. It gave the narrator chills in his blood. The narrator began his plot to commit the murder. He crept into the old man’s room every night at midnight for seven nights, but finding the eye closed as the old man slept, the narrator couldn’t bring himself to commit the deed. The narrator described himself as being “never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before” he killed him (Poe 1). On the eighth night, the old man awoke to the sound of the narrator chuckling as he was Lam 2 in the process of entering the room. When the narrator opened a gap in the lantern, the ray of light revealed the vulture eye. The narrator began to hear a sound which he believed to be the old



Cited: Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1998. eNotes.com. January 2006. 15 December 2009 Napierkowski. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1998. eNotes.com. January 2006. 15 December 2009

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