Tell Tale Heart Essay, Research Paper
Within the human psyche there is a small and sometimes undefined line between what drives us to do good and that which pushes towards corruption. The battle to maintain balance between the two is the theme of Edgar Allan Poe s The Tell-Tale Heart. For sane individuals it requires a traumatic or life altering event to push them across the line, however for the insane it can be a very inconsequential event that drives them completely mad.
From the onset of this story the narrator tries to convince us, as the reader, that he is not mad, but rather has acquired due to an illness sharpened the senses. (par. 1). The first instance in which we are let in on how acute his senses are is the case of the old man s vulture eye. (par. 3). The old man s eye evokes an irrational fear out of the narrator from the onset. When it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever. (par. 2). It was only this brief encounter with the gazing eye of the old man that pushed him over the line. Shortly after deciding to kill the old man, we are once again re-assured by the narrator of his sanity. He feels by describing in great depth the method in which he went about stalking and eventually killing the old man, that we will accept his acute senses rather than his madness. You would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in it took me an hour to thrust my head within the opening. (par. 3). His attempts at letting us into his personality only further our beliefs of his madness. The narrator s murderous act takes place on the eighth night of his stalking. A rather ironic requirement for him to murder the old man is that he has to see the blue-glazed eye gazing upon him. The irony exists in that the whole time he has been stalking the old man he has used great care in order not to disturb him from his bed. If it had not been for his fumbling of the lantern he would have never seen the eye and continued this madness in definitely. By this point in the story we are in-touch with how obsessed the narrator is with this protruding eye. I could see nothing of the old man s face: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot. (par. 9).
If the eye is what pushed over the line of sanity it would be the old man s constantly beating heart that would lead to his demise. The heart is first heard as only a faint noise in the narrator s head but it later beings to increase in intensity and begins to envelope his mind. It serves to increase his fury as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage, (par. 10) and he finally commits the most horrific act by smothering him with his own bed until the heart ceases to beat. He then uses detail of how he disposes of the body in which he describes how cunning he is to try and make us believe that he is not in fact mad. But by this point it is obvious to us that he is indeed mad. With the arrival of the police officers at the end of the short story we are clued into a very important detail and that is the fact that the noise of the beating heart was that of his own, not the old man.
Edgar Allan Poe s use of the narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart, serves to make us aware that although this story is told from the first person point-of-view, we can t always trust what he tells us. The narrator s irrational actions towards the old man exemplify the line that is drawn between what is good and what is corrupt.