The slow descent into madness has long been a pertinent theme in both film and literature. A man with the semblance of sanity finding himself wrought by his madness as his rational faculty wanes and his actions become sadistic is not only fascinating but also unsettling. It is that unnerving element that makes it all so alluring, because madness, as 19th-century romantic writer Edgar Allan Poe has suggested through his works, is inherent in all of us; we’re all a little mad. Poe uses this slow descent into madness as a catalyst in his horror themed prose-tale, “The Tell-Tale Heart” to instill terror. This portrait of a psychotic personality Poe has created carried over on Hollywood films. Like the Tell-Tale narrator, John Doe’s modus operandi is eerily sadistic. Both psychotic personalities convey this narcissistic, overconfidence holier-than-thou mindset, which questions their lack of awareness of their insanity. By comparing the narrator in Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” with John Doe of Se7en and characterizing them as madmen with corrupt rational faculties, this essay will argue that madness is not only inherent and framed by subjectivity, but also a factor of deprived judgment.
The narrator’s overemphasis of his sanity at the beginning of the prose ironically leads readers to believe he is mad, which demonstrates how absolute his madness is and how deprived of judgment he has become. The story begins with the narrator defending his sanity. He starts, his tone marked with confidence, “How then I am mad? Harken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story” (715). Rather than defending his innocence, he explains why his crime isn’t insane, but justifiable. By asserting his sanity at the beginning and failing to...
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...pushes the envelope and assumes his solution is the only satisfying solution, the only acceptable solution.
As romantic writer Edgar Allan Poe asserts in many of his works and popular films try to affirm, madness is inherent in all of us. Furthermore, the explored works attests that madness is not only framed by subjectivity, but also impacts our moral judgment. A madman does not see perceive his actions as inane because of this imposed subjectivity. Through Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” and the film Se7en, we are shown two psychotic personalities, and by comparing them and characterizing them as madman who often use faulty rational reasoning to veil their insanity and extremist mindset, the ideology that madness is a factor in deprived moral judgment is revealed. Arguably, maybe we’re all mad and the degree of madness lingering in us is just waiting to be triggered.
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