Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart and the Symbolism of the Eye

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Edgar Allen Poe is the genius responsible for dark, twisting, and often uncomfortably wondrous gothic tales, and one of the best is 'The Tell-Tale Heart.' This is a classic tale of a confused man who is so incredibly bothered by his housemate's eye, that he (I am assuming this sexless character is male) thinks the only solution is to resort to cold-blooded murder. Poe incorporates the symbol of the old man's eye in 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' which has both physical and psychological meaning, it also helps to develop the plot and central conflicts in the story. The eye allows a better understanding of the narrator's mental state, represents an omniscient/fatherly figure, and helps illustrate the theme of good verses evil.

The story?s conflict revolves around the narrator plotting, planning, and executing a man?s death, yet it is the eye that causes this man?s obsession with murder. Another important conflict in the story is that of the narrators struggle to prove he is sane, he does this by trying to make the eye seem evil, more evil than his own deeds. The only reason the narrator gives for his decision of murder is the man?s eye, and it is the eye the narrator must see before he can actually kill the man. In the end of the story, the disposing of the eye actually leads to the narrator?s downfall. As you can see, the eye is the story?s main conflict, which helps to develop the plot, and really allows for a deeper understanding of the story.

The author uses the eye to provide clues as to why the narrator is so unreliable. ?I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this!? (Poe 721), the narrator uses the statement ?I think?, implying that he is obviously not very sure, and definitely unstable, since something he ?thinks? is a problem...

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..., which is one reason why he?s trying to prove himself as sane. This theme can be tied into the fatherly figure, by showing his struggle to stay ?good? in the eyes of his father, yet we have already established that he really does understand that he is going insane, and since he comprehends this transition, he must kill the judging fatherly figure so he doesn?t see his turn to ?evil.?

The eye helps to show the narrators spiral into insanity, the father/son relationship occurring between the narrator and old man, and the ever transient theme of good verses evil. ?The Tale-Tell Heart? uses such blatant symbolism that it?s almost easy to skip right over and not notice, but the understanding of the ?eye? is the key to this famous tale. Edgar Allan Poe is absolutely ingenious, and for obvious reasons his work will always be considered as distinguished ?classics?.
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