Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Tell Tale Heart” depicts a narrator who observes a man and kills him. The narrator dismembers the old man after killing him and decides to hide it under the floorboards; he has no motive except for his pale blue eye. Police soon arrive and the narrator takes them on a tour of the house to prove that he is innocent. The narrator decides to take the policemen to where he kills the old man, in order to make it look like there was no harm done. The police men do not suspect anything, but the narrator then hears the man’s heartbeat and confesses. In the story, the reader slowly learns that the narrator is insane through his thoughts and his speech. The reader then wonders if he has some type of illness. This illness is called moral insanity which was discovered in the 19th century. Today it is known as schizophrenia, but moral insanity is a simpler version of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a fragmented condition in which sufferers’ words are split from meaning, actions from motives, perceptions from reality; it is a mental illness that can be elusive, complex and different in form (Wade 584).
Moral insanity is a morbid perversion of the natural feelings, affections, inclinations, temper, habits, moral dispositions, and natural impulses, without any remarkable disorder or defect of the intellect or knowing and reasoning faculties, and particularly without any insane illusion or hallucination. . .The individual is found to be incapable, not of talking or reasoning upon any subject proposed to him, for this he will often do with great shrewdness and volubility, but of conducting himself with decency and propriety in the business of life (Noll 213 ).
In the beginning of the story, we learn that the narrator gives his own account of the story. The narrator starts out his story in which the reader finds him insane.
True!—nervous —very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. 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 1128).
The narrator mentions that he has a disease, but then later says he is not mad. The term mad also refers to insane. People with moral insanity deny that they are insane because they believe that their hallucinations are real (Wade 584). A person with schizophrenia usually denies that they are insane this is a type of “defense mechanism” in which a person does not seem to be aware of some aspect of external reality (Noll 90). Throughout the story the narrator mentions that he is not mad. One symptom of moral insanity is auditory hallucinations. These hallucinations are of sound and they are found across many diagnostic categories (Noll 24). The narrator said his senses sharpened and his hearing was acute. He also mentions that he hears everything from heaven to earth. It is impossible for a human to hear...