The Tell-Tale Heart is easily one of the most famous short stories by American writer Edgar Allen Poe. It deals with issues of disgust, guilt, insanity, fear and suspicion. It is suspenseful, eerie and everything you can expect from Edgar Allen Poe. More than that, it is regarded as one of the best works of short literary fiction in history.
The plot of The Tell-Tale Heart
The Tell-Tale Heart is narrated by a man who lives with an old man whom he loves. However, the narrator is made paranoid by the old man's eye. He watches it while the old man sleeps. It haunts him and eventually leads him to plot the old man's murder, in spite of his fond feelings toward him.
For more than a week, the narrator watches the old man while the old man is in bed. He opens the door a crack and stares at the eye. On the last night, the old man wakes to find the narrator standing by the door. The narrator decides to take this opportunity to smother the old man.
The events in the story that lead to its name occur after the old man's death, though the narrator hears the man's heart beating before he kills him. After the old man dies, the younger man chops him up and buries him beneath the floor. The police show up when the narrator is finished to investigate a scream issued from the old man.
As the narrator sits speaking to the police, he hears the beating heart of the old man. Its insidious beating starts to drive the narrator mad. His guilt, combined with the hallucination, causes him to confess and tell the police where to find the old man's body.
The characters of The Tell-Tale Heart
The main character of The Tell-Tale Heart is the paranoid narrator. He seems like a nice enough person, but he is overcome with obsessions. He calls his roommate's eye 'vulture-like,' though it sounds like cataracts from the description. He cannot bear the eye, but he loves his roommate, an old man. The narrator is trying to convince the reader and whoever is listening that he is sane, though guilty.
The old man lives in the same house as the narrator. He has some deformity of the eye. It is clouded over and pale blue. He is innocent of any wrongdoing, as far as the reader knows. He sleeps at night, not knowing that the younger narrator hovers near his door, waiting for the right time to kill him.
Edgar Allen Poe and The Tell-Tale Heart
Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart was published in 1843 by James Russell Lowell. Today, it is still in circulation, more than 150 years later. It is also often portrayed in film and on stage.
Edgar Allen Poe, while able to write lighter, humorous prose, was quite the dark and Gothic writer. Many literary critics and profilers like to attribute this to the death of his wife at 24 years of age. However, he wrote this, one of the darkest of his pieces, years before she passed away. It must be said that The Tell-Tale Heart is an example of who the man was as a writer, outside the influence of tragedy.