The Tell-Tale Heart

Hello and welcome once again to The Young Reader's Review! Alas, we have plunged into the most pleasant and agreeable time of the year: mid-summer! The past preoccupations from school and work have fully disappeared and stay only a distant, vague memory and we cannot help but give in to the soothing and appeasing sun. Moreover, if you have already encountered this blog before, you might recall that I have reviewed “The Masque of the Red Death”, a short story by the word-widely famed Edgar Allan Poe. So today, I have decided to review another short story by this author I am very so fond of; “The Tell-Tale Heart”. 

For those who don’t know, Edgar Allan Poe is a writer from the 19th century and who we can say was somewhat devoted to Gothic Fiction. This style of writing includes elements that have to do with death, fear, gloom and horror but we can also find some romantic elements such as nature, love, individuality and high emotions. This was of course quite seen as transgressive at the time and as indignant and violating moral codes probably established by the people’s point of view of religion at the time.  But if we take a step back and look at this horrific way of writing today, 2016, it is more than interesting. So let’s do that, shall we?

This story starts with a man imperatively claiming that he is nervous in the first person narrative (another characteristic of Gothic Fiction). In this story, this man, whose name is unknown, seems to be either monologuing or writing about a past event as if he is talking to himself during the whole story. Anyway, the man talks about how he is not a lunatic but has a peculiar hypersensitivity to sounds (he hears sounds louder than you and I can hear them). He suddenly starts talking about an idea that aroused in him but from an unknown origin about killing an old man whom he says he loves. But he claims that it was because of his “pale blue eye, with a film over it.” (The film might be from a disease, such as corneal disease?). He says once again that he is not crazy because of the way he executed the murder so meticulously and with such sagacity. He continues by explaining how every night, he would go to the old man’s room as quietly as possible, and angle the lantern so that a ray of light would fall perfectly on his “Evil eye”. He followed this procedure for seven days since the old man didn’t budge. But on the seventh day, his hand slipped on the tin fastening of the lantern, causing a noise loud enough for the old man to wake up with a groan, and in fright inquisitively to
ask “Who’s there?”. The soon to be murderer, found it funny that the innocent old man was afraid and that he would most certainly comfort himself by saying that it was only the wind that caused such a noise.  So he resolved himself to open a little crevice of the lantern so that a single dim ray of light would fall on his eye. Then, he realized that this “vulture eye” was wide open. He said that he could hear the beating of the old man’s heart, increasing by the second. He even started to think that the neighbours could hear this unbearable sound so he jumped into the room. The old man was shrieking for his life, while the narrator dragged him to the floor and pulled his heavy bed over him, crushing him until life dwelled in him no more. The murderer dismembered the corpse hiding every bit of the innocent old man’s body under floor boards. Suddenly, three police officers knocked at the door saying that the neighbours reported having heard a shriek. Calm and leisurely, the narrator said that he had shrieked waking up from a horrifying nightmare and that the old man was out in the country. He bade them to search the whole house, in every little crevice, positive that nothing would happen to him. Until, all of a sudden, he starts to hear a beating ringing in his ears. This sound drives him mad until he confesses that he killed the man and he orders the police officers, whom he calls “villains” to take his body parts under the floorboards.  He says that the beating he heard was the hideous beating of the old man’s heart!

So now that you know the story, let’s get down to the analysis. We can agree that despite the narrator’s pleads to sanity, he is everything but right in his mind. The man clearly suffers from some sort of mental deterioration. We can tell this because of this paranoia and obsession of this “Evil eye” and because of this acuteness to sounds which he claims to be a proof of his sanity but is unfortunately a symptom of his madness. In this story, we are swimming in this man’s mind, in his psychological contradictions. But it is still strange since the man is perfectly capable of expressing himself in a clear and precise manner. His paragraphs are clear, well structured, and make sense. 

The man also says that he wants to kill the old man but he doesn’t exactly know why. He clearly said that he loved the old man but not his “Evil eye”. Perhaps another symptom of his madness is that he fails to associate the old man’s body part with the man’s being or soul. As if he believes that the eye is an individual and doesn’t realize that killing the eye will also kill the man he loves. He fails to understand that the eye is part of the man’s identity too. But then, the extremely famous psychiatrist and writer Sigmund Freud said that we do harm people whom we love, which I guess creates some sort of paradox. Can this also be a reason why the murderer killed the old man? We’ll never know. But personally, I love many people and have never murdered any of them. 

Coming back to the story, the man also dismembers the old man as if he is not human and as if his body’s pieces have all separate identities. He also cannot make the distinction between real and imagined sounds. Because in the end, the old man’s heartbeat was only his own. He did claim to be anxious several times during the story. It’s because his heart, quite self-explanatorily, “tells tales” to the narrator.  

Ironically, the police officers in this story don’t represent an imposing, judgmental force in this story but this just gives a chance for the narrator to betray himself, to betray his denial to madness. It’s rather a simple, rapid and logical ending to the story. Perhaps in the end, this whole story was written when the narrator was in the psychiatric hospital and he wanted to prove his sanity. Or maybe “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a confession, or a confession and what he thinks is a proof to his sanity. 

This story is the product of Edgar Allan Poe’s genius. So of course it’s extremely well written, the precise form is captivating and the story is intense despite the morbidity. This short story is probably one of my favorite stories by Edgar Poe because I think that the story hiding behind the plot adds even more intensity and interest. This is the same case in almost everything written by this author. I like the fact that when you are finished reading this story, you feel as if your curiosity isn’t appeased, as if you still need to know more about the narrator and why and how he could do such a horrific action.     Also, this story is quite easy to read for 19th century literature and for Edgar Allan Poe so your reading flows and isn’t interrupted by a strange, forgotten word. I could recommend this book to outright anybody, but if you are curious about Gothic Fiction or about Edgar Allan Poe, I strongly recommend you to start with this spine-tingling story. Also, it’s only about three pages long, so don’t hesitate tackling this story! 

So, that was it for this week’s review! I hoped you liked this review and that I made you want to read this fascinating short story! If you do read this story, don’t forget to tell me your opinions either down in the comments section or on my Google +, and don’t forget to like and share this review! See  you next time! (⊙ᗜ⊙)

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