The Murderer's Motivation Depicted in Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart Essay

The Murderer's Motivation Depicted in Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart Essay

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Poe's writings are not without morals, and as a representation of a guilty conscience, “The Tell-Tale Heart” has been called one of the most effective parables ever conceived (Ward 310). “I find it almost impossible to believe that Poe has no serious or artistic motive in 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' that he merely revels in horror and only inadvertently illuminates the depths of the human soul,” James Gargano asserts. He further states that though Poe's stories sometimes seem to be nothing more than ramblings of crazed narrators, the structure, development, arrangement, and irony of the narrator's confessions allow Poe to offer ideas which the narrators themselves never actually possessed (“The Question” 328). For example, the narrator is unsure of his motive for the murder of his elderly companion, except that the pale blue eye aggravated him. Some critics have theorized that the aggravation of eternal time or psychological similarities with the old man prompted the narrator to his crime. However, it is not the theme of time or unity with the old man that drives the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” to murder, but the representation of his own sin within the “Evil Eye.”
In “Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart,'” E. Arthur Robinson falsely proposes, “These two psychological themes – the indefinite extension of subjective time and the psychic merging of killer and killed – are linked closely together in the story” (259). The characters' senses are on high-alert in the darkness as the narrator gazes at the sleeping old man night after night, and the long-lasting periods of silence create a slow-motion effect. Even the narrator's physical movements are agonizingly slow and prolonged (Robinson 257-59). The beating of the tell-tale heart can be li...


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...imilar to how it is impossible for the narrator to leave the house in which his sin (the eye) resides.
When all parts of “The Tell-Tale Heart” are thoroughly analyzed, the murderer's true motivation becomes apparent, and the reader knows of his desire to destroy his own sin, which he sees in the eye of his old friend and living companion. Other theories regarding time and the combination of killer and victim into one can be overturned with evidence supporting the idea that the truth lies in the “Evil Eye” and the narrator's hatred of sin. Many aspects of the eye bear likeness to sin, and the narrator resembles the typical human nature. This unique view on the relationship of man and his own sin shown through the murderer and the “Evil Eye” is surely what allows the “Tell-Tale Heart” to be named “one of the most effective parables every conceived” (Ward 310).


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