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Analysis of The Tell-tale Heart's Narrator

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In the ‘The Tell-tale Heart’, Poe depicts the horrors that may occur in the mind of a murderer. Before I state my stance on the narrator’s sanity, I want to point out that Google defines the term insane as a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction. Considering that, and the way the narrator acts in the story, the narrator is rational and intelligent but insane.

The story is a retelling of the narrator’s actions which he tries to use as a justification for his sanity. To who is he trying to justify his actions/sanity? To us, the readers. There are not many stories where the narrator directly addresses the readers, which to me seems a bit insane. Maybe this was another way for Poe to add more horror to the story as it could help add more to the narrator’s behavior (out of the ordinary). The story begins with him questioning assumptions that are made about him. The thing that first pushed me towards him being insane was the fact that he said, “Is it not clear that I am not mad?” I started to find him untrustworthy as when someone tells me they aren’t something or didn’t do something without me asking any questions, I immediately assume the opposite of what they told me. In other words, the narrator saying he is not insane made me think he is insane.

The narrator then goes on to tell us the reason why all this started: the old man’s EYE. When the narrator starts to tell us about how much he hated the eye, I began to think that he is clearly not sane as he is obsessing over an eye. In other words, his perception of what is “bad” is not normal, thus (according to the definition)he is insane. Looking at the deeper meaning of this, the eye symbolizes the door to our souls, where are deepest darkest secrets are held. Moreover, the narrator was afraid of how the old man’s eye, that would always watch him, would reveal his (the narrator) secrets.

The narrator then describes how for seven nights straight at midnight he would open the door to the old man’s room and stick his head in to simply see if the eye was open. This is clearly not normal behavior (another part of the definition of insane). Of course for those seven nights, the eye was closed and the narrator did nothing. This further shows that he is insane as he couldn’t bring himself to kill the old man if they eye was not visible. In other words, he was ONLY obsessed with the eye. On the eighth night was when the narrator saw the eye and killed the old man. The actions he had that night were insane as well, he stood there for an hour just waiting for a chance to see the eye. When he did, he began hearing the beating heart, which he believed to be the old mans. The beating was what triggered him to kill the old man. Once the deed was done, he goes to hide the body. Furthermore, he is intelligent as he knows how and where to properly dispose of the body so that no one ever finds out. He also shows his intelligence when the police officers come and he has already thought of an explanation as to what had occurred. In the end, what led him to confessing what he did to the old man was his own beating heart. This beating heart symbolizes guilt and how it can eat you up. The narrator could not stand the heart so he admitted what he did as he thought he was not the only one who could hear it.

In other words, this feeling of guilt was becoming so intense by the minute that he confessed his crime in hopes that he would feel better. However, the beating did not stop, meaning the narrator will forever feel the guilt for what he did. (he can’t change what he did). 

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Analysis Of The Tell-Tale Heart’s Narrator. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from
“Analysis Of The Tell-Tale Heart’s Narrator.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022,
Analysis Of The Tell-Tale Heart’s Narrator. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Mar. 2023].
Analysis Of The Tell-Tale Heart’s Narrator [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 29 [cited 2023 Mar 29]. Available from:
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