Tale Heart By PoeThe short story can produce many different “types” of characters.
Usually, these characters are faced with situations that give us an insight intotheir true “character”. In the Tell Tale Heart, a short story writtenby Edgar Allen Poe, the narrator of the story is faced with a fear. He is afraidof the Old Man’s Eye. The actions that this narrator performs in order to quellhis fear can lead others to believe that he suffers from some sort of mentalillness. The very fact that this narrator is so repulsed by the old man’s eye,which he refers to as “the evil eye”, is reason enough to besuspicious of his character. The narrator has an inner struggle with the thoughtthat “the evil eye” is watching him and an underlying feeling that”the evil eye” will see the real person that he has become. Thisparanoia leads the narrator to believe that the only way he can put down hisfears is to kill the old man. It is said that denial is usually the sign of aproblem. If this holds true, then the narrator has the characteristics of a”madman”. In the first paragraph, he asks, “but why will you saythat I am mad!” (Kennedy & Gioia, 34) This statement can be looked uponas a statement made by someone going through a paranoid episode. He talks as ifhe is in frenzy, especially when he talks about hearing things in heaven and inhell. “The disease had sharpened my sensesAbove all was the sense ofhearing acute. I heard all things in the heavenI heard many things inhell.” (Kennedy & Gioia, 34) The “disease” that the narratoris talking about eats away at his conscience until “I made up my mind totake the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.”(Kennedy & Gioia, 34) The progression of the story revolves around theactions of the narrator. He describes the “wise” ways in which heprepares himself to commit this deed. The way the narrator “stalks”the old man the whole week before he kills him can be evidence of a problem.
Every night he would watch the old man sleep. He found comfort in knowing thatthe eye was not watching him, that it could not see the true evil within hissoul. While the eye was closed, so was the idea of killing the old man. It isnot until the old man awakens each day that the struggle within is apparent.
This may be the reason why the narrator is so obsessed with watching the old mansleep. The actual act of murder, which the narrator believes was premeditated,was in fact a spur of the moment action. He toiled with the idea while the manwas awake, that is, while he could see the “evil eye”. However, whilethe eye was closed, the narrator was at peace. One night, during one of thenarrator’s “stalking” sessions, the old man awakens. The narrator goesinto a paranoid frenzy, mistaking the beating of his heart for the beating ofthe old man’s heart. During this frenzy, the narrator is afraid that neighborswill hear the beating of the man’s heart. This causes the narrator to takeaction. He quickly subdues the old man and kills him. He then takes extremesteps in disposing of the body, dismembering it and burying it under the planksin the floorboard. These extreme actions can be used as evidence to the paranoiathat is taking shape. The fear of getting caught would be a normal reaction tosomeone who has committed a murder. However, the dismemberment of the body wasnot necessary since the narrator had ample resources to dispose of the bodyproperly. When the police arrive at the house, the narrator is sure that he hasnothing to fear. He lets them into the house and bids them to search whereverthey like. He leads them into the room where the body is buried and invites themto sit down. Although he fears nothing consciously, the narrator battles withhis conscience subconsciously. He begins to feel uneasy when the officers starttalking to him. The paranoia begins to build steadily and before long, thenarrator hears the beating of his heart, which he again mistakes for the beatingof the corpse’s heart. This implication gives further evidence to the paranoidnature of the narrator. The beating grows louder to him and, since it is hisheart beating, the officers could not hear it. This made the narrator evenuneasier since he could not understand why they could not hear it as well. Ashort while later and after a rabid inner struggle, the narrator, in a fit ofrage, admits to his crime, believing that the police officer were aware of whathe had done. This is the pinnacle of his paranoid state. The idea that theofficers were just toying with him, that they knew all along that he hadmurdered, presents a clear case of paranoid psychosis. Despite the narrator’scunning plan of how to commit the murder and how to dispose of the body, his ownsub-conscience becomes his undoing. The sound of the old man’s heartbeatcontinues to taunt the narrator and his reaction to his subconscious thoughtscauses him to admit his crime to the police.
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