The Tell-Tale Heart

The Tell-Tale Heart

1) Write a brief summary of the story

In "The Tell-Tale Heart", the narrator confesses to a murder he has committed. He tells about how he felt compelled to kill the old man living with him because of the man´s "evil eye". After watching the man in his bedroom for seven nights in a row, he finally kills him, cuts the body into pieces, and hides them under the planks of the floor. When the police arrives the next morning to inquire about a scream heard by neighbors during the night, the narrator is very

confident that the police will not find out about the murder. However, the longer the police stay at his house, the more unsure he becomes. He imagines he can still hear the old man´s heart beating under the floor planks, and he finally confesses to the murder because the sound of the beating heart is driving him insane.

2) Who tells the story?

The story is told by a first-person-narrator, by the murderer.

3) How does the narrator himself explain his own frame of mind?

He declares at once that he suffers from a 'disease,' but implies that because it has not dulled his senses, he cannot be called mad. The narrator points out that his mental disorder has actually caused his senses, especially his hearing, to become more acute. When he claims to have heard many things in heaven and hell, we realize, of course, that his super-human sensory experiences are delusions.

4) What does he himself think to be the motive for his deed? Can we accept this as a reason?

The narrator thinks that it's one of his eyes which are pale-blue and film-covered eye like that of a vulture. The narrator can't stand this eye. This can't be accepted as a reason, it's absolutely absurd.

5) What is the real motive for the murder?

The narrator is not certain of the motive to kill the old man. First he he wants to kill him because of his eye, afterwards because of his heartbeat. This indicates that the narrator did not truly have motive of killing the old man. Then what is the nature behind these two reasons? It can be explained by looking into the narrator's conscience. The narrator has a desire to kill the old man, but he does not have a good enough motive to commit the murder. Instead, he makes excuses and carries out the crime to satisfy his need.

6) Give examples of the murderer's insanity

He projects his own illness on the old man. He doesn't have a reason for his deed, to kill him because of his "evil eye" is simply absurd. He rejoices the man's fear. He thinks that his madness has sharpened his senses. When the police arrives he's too confident. His first reaction to the crime which he regards as necessary is a smile. He has no feelings towards the body. He's too confident when the police arrives, he looses his contact with reality.

7) What are the striking features of this tale of terror?

It's a gothic story. Striking features are the suspension of rationality and morality, the superiority of evil and the psychopathic and destructive emotions.

8) The beating of the heart is a central motif of the story. Explain it's funcion.

The beating of the heart symbolizes fear and guilty conscience. It shows us that the character is actually nervous about what he has done. It also adds some more suspense to the story.

9) When do we first learn about the old man's fate? Isn't the suspense destroyed now?

We learn about his destiny in the first paragraph, but although the suspense isn't destroyed because we don't even know who is talking. The way Poe wrote the story also includes a lot of thrilling scenes.

10) How is suspense maintained?

Most of Poe's literature contains elements of suspense. This story gains much of its merit from the suspense built in. For example, the narrator goes to the man's room seven times before finally being able to commit the crime. The reader wonders throughout the seven nights if the narrator will actually go through with it. Also, the sound of the beating heart that the narrator claims to hear adds an element of suspense. A reader may wonder if the story is about to shift from realistic horror to the something unrealistic with a monster coming out of the floorboards still alive after the narrator's murder. This is far from the case. Even so, it becomes a very interesting way for Poe to show this narrator's insanity. The reader wonders if finally the narrator will be pushed to confess, which he finally does.

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