Edgar Allan Poe, whose personal torment so powerfully informed his visionary prose and poetry, is a towering figure in the history of American literature.
A Virginia gentleman and the son of itinerant actors, the heir to great fortune and a disinherited outcast, a university man who had failed to graduate, a soldier brought out of the army, a husband with an unapproachable child-bride, a brilliant editor and low salaried hack, a world-renowned but impoverish author, a temperate man and uncontrollable alcoholic, a materialist who yearned for a final union with God.
His fevered imagination brought him to great heights of creativity and the depths of paranoiac despair. Yet although he produced a relatively small volume of work, he virtually invented the horror and detective genres and his literary legacy endures to this day. In the Tell Tale Heart the main character, the narrator, has a problem with an old man, the antagonist, whom he is living with.
The odd thing is that the problem has nothing to do with old man, how he acts, or even his attitude towards the narrator. It is simply one of the old man’s eyes which is blind or he can’t see a hundred percent in one eye. The narrator’s description of the eye is that it resembled that of a vulture, pale blue with a film over it. When the narrator looked at it, it caused his blood to run cold.
This drove him crazy and caused him to kill the old man He begins to believe that he is hearing the old man’s heart beating, while he was killing him and after he is dead. The pounding becomes louder and louder, and drives him crazy. It forces him to tell the police officers, who are searching his house, that he killed the old man and showed them where the body is buried, which is the most ironic and the last thing you would think to happen.
The irony comes into play when his heightened sense of hearing and sober madness is the cause of his downfall. How ironic, the same craze that led him to kill the man is the same craze that led him to his demise. The story takes place in a house around the turn of the 1800, probably in the northeastern part of the United States, and covers the period of one week and the relentless pursuit of perfect preparation the narrator went through to commit murder without getting caught.
The story involves an old man, the antagonist, the police, and the protagonist, who is also the narrator and tells the story from his point of view. On the other hand, we have no idea of the relationship between the antagonist, the old man, and the narrator, but what is told to us by the narrator. One tends to wonder if they were related or was he simply a servant for hire and therefore cared for the old man.
The narrator has left a lot to our imagination on the relationship of the characters. His insanity has made him a very paranoid man, he believes that everyone is trying to make a full of him, even though he believed he carried out a perfect murder.
He bragged about his preparation and thought that the old suspected nothing of his plain of terror and mayhem. The narrator is aware of what is it to be mad, but cannot bring himself to believe that he himself is insane.
He believes that since he is able to recollect and present every detail of the events that took place proves that he is not insane. He believes that he is sane because of the manner in which he carried out the crime of murder. His reason for wanting the old man dead is without motive. “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me.
He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire” the narrator thinks that he has no clear motive and that he loves the old man. The truth in the matter is that he knows he cannot bring himself to admit to the point that only a mad man would kill someone just because of the way their eyes looked. ‘ It was not the old man who vexed me, but his evil eye.’
He tries to explain his reason without implicating himself. The narrator makes us aware of his illness by presenting us with the fact that his sense of hearing is acute. ” I heard all things in the heavens and in the earth.” Who in their right mind have the hearing capability to hear sounds in heaven or hell to further prove a point of insanity? One must also asked oneself, who in their right mind would go through such a process to kill some old man, just because of an old eye?
By telling the story in such detail, the narrator proves himself mad. The title of the story in itself presents a puzzle with its title. Which heart was the author referring to? He first hears the old man’s heart in the room on the night of the murder. But the heart in question belongs to the narrator. Due to his heightened sense of hearing and the police’s refusal to leave his fear of being caught increases his heartbeat.
As the sound grew louder and louder, he became uneven and suspected that the officer heard the sound and decided to neglect it, because they were making a mockery of his horror. To him, anything was better than going through with the agony and pain of the pounding heartbeat. So in the end his conscience led him to admit to his crime.