Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Essay on The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart is a horror story by the American writer Edgar Allan Poe written in 1843. It was first published in the Boston-based magazine 'The Pioneer'. The story, which is being counted among the Gothic literature, was reprinted many times and served as the basis for various radio, film and television shows.

The main character, also the narrator, lives with an old man who has a lazy eye, which leads him to madness. 

He describes himself on several occasions, as someone who is mentally perfectly normal, but has very keen senses. He is so tormented by the image of the lazy eye that he tries to kill the old man. Every night it takes him an hour to open the door of the old man bedroom as gently as possible, but when he sees the old man sleep with both eyes closed, he stops his assassination plans and goes back. One evening, however, when he returns again, his lantern throws light directly to the open eye of the old man. At the same time insists hearing a dull sound, which he interprets as the heartbeat of the old man. The sound seems to grow stronger and stronger. Fearing that the neighbors will hear the sound, he finally kills the old man.

Then again he tries to prove it by explaining how carefully he made the old man’s body disappear. He chops it into pieces and hiding the parts under the wooden floor of the house. Shortly afterwards, the police, alerted by neighbors, comes, but nothing is found. Even it seems that the perpetrator will go unpunished. But then again he hears the beating of a heart, getting harder and harder and harder. Convinced that he hears the heart of the old man knocking under the floor, he, distraught, confesses the murder and tells the police where he hid the body.

The story is a paradigm for suspense in the literature: the reader knows from the start that the narrator is going to kill the old man. The whole suspense depends on the how. With his constant protestations that he was entirely reasonable, the narrator only makes a reader to consider him completely insane. The goal to kill a man solely because of a small physical anomaly is so irrational that even his most appropriate explanation is irrational. Poe proves to be a master of concealment: Not a word he says, standing in what actual relationship of the perpetrator and his victim are. But where even a younger man living with an elderly together are as closely as these two? 

The association that this is a conflict between father and son is by no means far-fetched. Marie Bonaparte supported the theory that in his story Poe executes his hatred foster father, John Allan. The love and hate at the same time have the double bind situation comes along with their development of a schizophrenia-promoting violence in expressed this text:

I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him. Although I chuckled at heart.

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