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Insanity In The Tell Tale Heart By Edgar Allen Poe

1321 words - 5 pages

Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell Tale Heart" is a short story about how a murderer's conscience overtakes him and whether the narrator is insane or if he suffers from over acuteness of the senses. Poe suggests the narrator is insane by the narrator's claims of sanity, the narrator's actions bring out the narrative irony of the story, and the narrator is insane according to the definition of insanity as it applies to "The Tell Tale Heart".

First, Poe suggests the narrator is insane by his assertions of sanity. For example, the narrator declares because he planned the murder so expertly he could not be insane. He says, "Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen how wisely I proceeded-with what caution-with what foresight-with what dissimulation I went to work!" In addition, every night at midnight the narrator slowly went into the room of the old man. He claims this was done so wisely that he could not be insane. The narrator thinks that if a murder is carefully planned then the murderer is not insane. Also, the narrator claims he suffers from over acuteness of the senses. Regarding the sound of the old man's beating heart, the narrator says, "And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses? --now, I say, there came to my ears a low dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton". The narrator claims he is not imagining the sound but he is hearing it because his senses are so sharp. The narrator believes he is justified in killing the old man because the man has an Evil Eye. The narrator claims the old man's eye made his blood run cold and the eye looked as if it belonged to a vulture. Poe shows the narrator is insane because the narrators' actions bring out the narrative irony used in "The Tell Tale Heart".

Through the use of narrative irony Poe shows reason not to trust what the narrator says and instead make judgments based on the narrators actions. The narrator plans the murder so well and with such logic but his reasons for murder are irrational. The narrator says he loves the old man but then vows to kill him. Speaking of the murder, the narrator says, "Object there was none. Passion there was none. I love the old man he had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire". If the narrator is not insane he would not kill a man he loves or want to kill someone with an ugly eye. The narrator's reason for the murder of the old man is unjustified and deranged. This shows the narrative irony used because someone who commits a murder with so little logic in the reasoning cannot be trusted. The narrator decides to kill the old man because the old man's eye brings terror upon the narrator whenever he sees it. The narrator's fear of the eye is irrational. Regarding the eye the narrator says, "Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees-very gradually-I made up my mind to take the life...

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