“The Tell-Tale Heart”
In “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, there are only five characters mentioned in the story: the narrator, the old man, and three police officers, none of whom is ever named. Throughout the story, the narrator tells the audience over and over that he is not mad. He becomes obsessed with trying to prove that he is not a madman and eventually goes crazy in the end. He tells the story of how he kills the old man after seven nights of watching him sleep. He has nothing against the old man and actually likes him, but it is the old man’s pale blue eye with a film over it that overwhelms the narrator with anger. This is when he decides to rid of this “vulture eye,” by murdering the old man. After finally finishing what he had set out to do, three policemen show up because of a complaint about a shriek. The narrator assures them that it was him that had shrieked because of a nightmare and asks the officers to sit with him. While talking with them, confident that they knew nothing, he starts to hear a noise increasingly get louder. He eventually cannot take it anymore and rips up the floorboards where the body is and screams, “-here, here!-it is the beating of his hideous heart!” (Roberts, Zweig). The narrator says he is not a madman even though he hears the heartbeat of the old man before and after he kills him. It is impossible that he hears the old man’s heart beating when standing on the other side of a room away from him, and it is impossible for the heart to be beating when the old man is dead.
Through the course of the story, the audience figures out that the narrator is in fact insane even though he says otherwise. The question is, why does he try so hard to prove that he is not? The sanity defense w...
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...murder on an older man simply because he does not like one of his eyes.. He tells the audience that there was no passion or object, he loved the old man and he had never given the narrator insult. No sane person would ever murder someone that they claimed to “love.” John Cleman suggests that Poe is using the sanity defense to prove the narrator had a perfectly good reason to kill the old man and to convince the audience that they, too, would do the same thing if they were in this situation. At the same time, however, Poe is proving that the narrator is, in fact, insane. Some examples of how he does this are the way every detail of the murder is remembered, the hallucinations, hearing the heartbeat when there is none to be heard, and staying at the scene of the crime. All of these acts resemble those of homicidal maniacs. Therefore, the narrator was, in fact, insane.
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