ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Does Poe’s “The Telltale Heart” Tell?

Updated on September 30, 2011

written by: Kimberly Horvath


What Does Poe’s “The Telltale Heart” Tell?


Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Tell Tale Heart,” is a tale of horror in which the narrator vividly describes the murder of a harmless old man.Right from the start it is apparent to the reader that the narrator is a mad man, despite the narrator’s claims of sanity.Besides telling a horrific tale of murder, guilt, and paranoia, Edgar Allen Poe also puts forth a more complex psychological aspect for the reader to consider.Through the clever use of symbolisms and contradicting statements throughout the story, Poe indirectly entices the reader to consider the relationship between opposing emotions and the thin line between perception and reality.


Immediately the narrator admits that he is nervous, he also admits that he is afflicted by some disease, which has heightened his senses, especially that of his hearing.“TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am;” (Poe.)“The disease had sharpened my senses,Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.” (Poe.)The narrator then offers to calmly tell of his murderous crime and offers his calmness as proof of his sanity.“How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.” (Poe.) Within these few lines the narrator is admitting to being extremely nervous, and to having a disease which has sharpened his senses, mainly his hearing, and at the same time is denying the existence of mental illness and declaring his calm telling of the murder, which he committed, as proof of his sanity.In this example the reader can see that one’s perception can greatly affect what they believe to be true and possibly create a false sense of reality.Here the narrator believes himself to be sane and believes that the murder and the events that took place in relation to the act can all be logically justified.The narrator believes his perception of circumstances to be accurate, thus creating an alternate reality in his mind.


The narrator then goes on to describe how he loves the old man, but is revolted by his eye.He describes the old man’s eye as vulture like and evil, and is preoccupied by his disgust for the eye. “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture -- a pale blue eye with a film over it.” (Poe.) The narrator is so revolted by the old man’s eye that he decides he must take the man’s life in order to rid himself of the revolting eye.Here the narrator is experiencing conflicting emotions of love and hate at the same time.In order to cope with such powerful opposing emotions the narrator treats the old man and his eye as two separate entities, once again creating a false sense of reality in the narrator’s mind.This is an interesting aspect to explore because much of humankind has, at some point, experienced simultaneous emotions of love and hate.In “The Tell Tale Heart,” Poe has allowed these interrelated emotions to become separated from each other, by separating the beloved old man from his revolting eye.Furthermore it is only in the alternate reality, that has been created by the narrator’s false perception, that it would be possible for the old man’s eye to exist apart from the man.It is important to note that even though the narrator views the eye as detached from the old man, the narrator is still aware that in order to destroy the eye he must destroy the old man as well.Therefore; just as love and hate coexist, the object that one loves and hates must be viewed as a whole, and not as two parts.


Lastly, Edgar Allen Poe uses symbolism to further embellish the psychological concepts presented in “The Tell Tale Heart.”The most obvious and most relevant is that of the eye, which is what causes the narrator’s paranoia, fear, and obsession throughout the story.The eye, in symbolism, generally represents ideas of truth, judgment, and authority, however, when covered, “a pale blue eye with a film over it.” (Poe,) the eye can symbolize deceit.In this case the eye is evil, “for it was not the old man who vexed me but his Evil Eye” (Poe.) In many cultures it is believed that the “evil eye” has the ability to curse those it looks upon.In this story the eye clearly does not represent the old man, but instead it is possibly representative of a deceitful reality that is based on the perception of a mad man.The narrator also shines a lantern on the old man’s eye for seven nights, only to find that the eye is closed until on the eighth night, when he murders the old man.“It was open, wide, wide open, and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness -- all a dull blue with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones, but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person, for I had directed the ray as if by instinct precisely upon the damned spot.” (Poe). The ray of light from the lantern symbolizes truth and purity.Once again Poe has created a conflict, by using an eye that represents deceit, and a light, representing truth.Once destroying the eye and consequently the old man, the narrator is overcome by guilt.This emotion is represented by the beating heart, which the narrator believes is the old man’s, even though he is dead.Although the narrator feels justified in destroying the eye, he still feels a great sense of guilt over killing the old man, whom he loved.It is this guilt, represented by the beating heart, which causes the narrator to confess his crime to the authorities.


Through this horrific tale Poe has delivered a notion of coexistence between love and hate, and falsity and truth.The use of contradicting statements and symbolism presents these ideas as reoccurring themes in the short story, “The Tell Tale Heart”.Edgar Allen Poe cleverly uses a delusional mad man to narrate a story of a terrifying crime as a means to convey the complex relationship between perception and reality, and the opposing emotions of love and hate.



Works Cited:


Poe, Edgar Allen “The Tell Tale Heart.” Web, Camden County College English Department, © copyright 2006, Anthony Spatola.All Rights Reserved | August 09, 2011. http://faculty.camdencc.edu/aspatola/eng102/essay1.htm



Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)