Literary Analysis Essay of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’
‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1843. The piece talks about the life of unnamed narrator who is suffering from psychosis and his continued attempt to prove his sanity. Operating from the first person point of view, Poe enables readers inside the head of the protagonist and his current battle with nervousness. The story moves forward as the narrator becomes fixated with the old man’s ‘vulture-like’ eye and plots to remove this evil from his body. It is in this process that he kills the old man, dismembers the body and hides it under the floorboards. He would have escaped the investigation of the police if he did not confess his crimes due to the ringing that the narrator associated as the heartbeat of the old man.
One of the evident themes highlighted in the story corresponds to man’s battle with psychological conditions. Looking closely, the unnamed persona in the story tries to justify that he is not ill but rather his state of extreme nervousness is caused by the heightening of his senses, particularly that of his hearing (Poe 1). Though this might seem to be the case, the inability of the protagonist to recognize his condition prompts him to fixate on other things such as the eyes of the old man he takes care of, resulting him to murder the person. In addition, the direct and vivid language used by the author in the story further adds to the appreciation of psychosis experienced by the narrator.
Another important theme can be used to analyze Poe’s piece are the contradictions evident in the narrator’s profile to commit murder. Other than he is psychologically imbalanced, he does not possess the motive to do the act against the old man. For instance, the story does not show his specific interest to the wealth of the person or demonstrate the hate against the old man (Mikansek 1). Seeing this, the initiative came from the fixation and obsession of the narrator to the old’s man ‘evil eye’. He plans the murder as a way to free the man from his burden. However, the narrator also failed to realize that doing this act would be murder and the vulture-like eyes he contends to be evil remains to be evil is a valuable part that continues to define the identity of the old man he cares for.
Lastly, Poe’s piece also uses different literary devices in order to convey ideas to readers. One way of doing this is through the use of symbolisms. In the story, the beating heart represents the individual’s conscience as it tells him the mistake he committed in murdering the old man (Seneca 1). Equally, the use of vivid imagery and sound through words are also evident in Poe’s work. For example, the depiction of the murder scene were written in a dramatic fashion and based on what the persona is thinking and feeling at the same time. All of these add depth to the story and enables readers to uncover the character’s exploits despite being written from the perspective of an insane man.
Overall, ‘The Tell Tale-Heart’ is a dark tale by Edgar Allan Poe that examines the extremity of actions that an insane man can do. By writing from the perspective of the narrator, readers are able to uncover his transformation and how the manifestations of his extreme nervousness paved the way for his fixation to the old man’s physical deformity. It is through his recognition of his obligation to remove the ‘evil eye’ from the old man motivates his quest for murder, validate his insanity and consequently continue to show his humanity through the symbolism brought forward by the beating heart he hears by himself.
Mikansek, Tony. ‘Literature Annotations: Poe, Edgar Allan – The Tell-Tale Heart’ NYU.edu. 18 Oct. 2004.Web. Accessed 3 September 2014.
Poe, Edgar Allan. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ The Literature Network. 1843. Web. Accessed 3 September 2014.
Seneca, Tyler. ‘Edgar Allan Poe and His Use of Literary Devices’ Teen Ink. 2012. Web. Accessed 3 September 2014.