Analysis of ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’

In: Literature essays

Analysis of ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’: On the Edge of Madness

‘True!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?’ is the beginning of Edgar Allan Poe’s horror story ‘The Tell -Tale Heart’. And would you call the principal character mad? It is really hard to answer at once, in order to determine that the analysis of the Tell-Tale Heart has to be performed.

When you set about the analysis of the Tell-Tale Heart you should find out the reason why the principal character wanted to kill the old man so much. It was not the matter of hatred, annoyance and anger, but fear. And why was the storyteller afraid of the old man? Critics discord on the analysis of the Tell-Tale Heart.

Some of them suppose that the ‘eye’ could mean a secret that both characters are bind with. Noteworthy, seven nights running the storyteller hesitated to kill the old man, when his eye was shut. And only when he saw the opened eye, as if it was an unlocked door to old man’s secrets, the murder took place. The whole story is filled with such metaphors. Your analysis of the Tell-Tale Heart should be based on them.

The analysis of the Tell-Tale Heart: Key aspects

‘I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.’ In the very beginning the principal character says that he has sensitive ear. This may be the figment of his imagination or schizophrenia.

The old man’s heartbeat could also be a hallucination. But Fedor Dostoevsky, who was interested in Poe’s work, considered that the heartbeat is pure and simple killer’s conscience. The theme of perfect murder was discussed by Dostoevsky in his novel Crime and Punishment. And similarly the murderer was betrayed by his conscience.

And the question ‘Is the storyteller mad?’ comes to mind again. Maybe he is one of those insane people, who deny their madness. But the most interesting part is that there is no correct answer to this question. Thus you can write whatever you want in the analysis of the Tell-Tale Heart, but you should explain your viewpoint.

If you liked the Tell-Tale Heart, you should also read and analyze other works of such genre and with similar plot. For instance, perform the analysis of the Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, written in Gothic fiction genre.

Edgar Allan Poe said that the ‘Tell-Tale Heart best illustrates his theory of how should short stories be written. Analyzing this story you will be able to understand the style and work of the writer better.


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