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Contradictions On The "Tell Tale Heart' By Edgar Allen Poe

1071 words - 4 pages

§One contradiction that the perceptive reader catches is the following. The narrator first tells us that he spies on the old man at night. He eerily stares at the old man while he sleeps: "It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed" (Poe 291). This clearly implies that the narrator can see his future victim: "I could see him as he lay upon his bed." But then the narrator tells us that although the victim awakes startled, the narrator simply stood his ground in the doorway since "His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness...and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door..." (Poe 292). This implies that the room and hallway are pitch black, which means that neither the victim nor the predator can see anything - without light. So the narrator can both see and not see his victim. This carefully concealed contradiction shows that the narration itself is unstable, just as the narrator's mind is.§Another contradiction can be found in the second paragraph of the story. The narrator says, "It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain" (Poe 290). This suggests that the narrator was clueless as to how he thought up of the idea of killing the old man. It is saying that it was not his decision, and implying that he was never thinking about it. Later in the paragraph though, he says "by degrees--very gradually--[he] made up [his] mind to take the life of the old man" (Poe 290). This contradicts the previous quote. First, he says that it was not his decision, but in the latter quote, the narrator tells the audience that "[he] made up [his] mind to take the life of the old man." Surely, even the narrator himself was confused.§The narrator says that when he was spying on the old man, he "thrust in [his] head" (Poe 291). By definition, thrust means to push or drive quickly and forcibly. The reader gets an image of the narrator passing through the threshold abruptly. For "cunningly [he] thrust it in" (Poe 291). The next line contradicts this statement for he says he "moved it slowly--very, very slowly, so that [he] might not disturb the old man's sleep" (Poe 291). Now, the reader sees an image of the narrator peeking through gradually and quietly, so that the waking of the old man could be avoided. In fact, he did it so slowly that "it took [him] an hour to place [his] whole head within the opening" (Poe 291). Taking an hour to put a head through a doorway truly is a long time, indicating that he could not have thrust his head through the doorway. Thrusting his head in to spy on the old man and doing it "very, very slowly" very much contradicts each other.§The narrator describes what the old man is feeling and thinking of when he was startled at the eighth night. "His fears had been ever since growing upon him" (Poe 292). One can picture the old man very afraid, not knowing what to do....

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