“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe is a first-person narrative short story that showcases an enigmatic and veiled narrator. The storyteller makes us believe that he is in full control of his mind yet he is experiencing a disease that causes him over sensitivity of the senses. As we go through the story, we can find his fascination in proving his sanity. The narrator lives with an old man, who has a clouded, pale blue, vulture-like eye that makes him so helpless that he kills the old man. He admits that he had no interest or passion in killing the old man, whom he loved. Throughout the story, the narrator directs us towards how he ends up committing a horrifying murder and dissecting the corpse into pieces. The narrator who claims to be sane is in fact trying to get away with the punishment for the crime that he readily admits by faking insanity through ironic means.
Edgar Allan Poe, the writer himself is the one who establishes the irony in this story, not the narrator because the latter seems to be completely insensible about the ironic component of his monologue. The conventional critical analysis of "The Tell-Tale Heart" might engage the story from the point of view that the narrator's attempt to prove his sanity might be an exercise in irony. Irony, in today’s world, can be easily misinterpreted by most of us because we tend to get confused with it taking it like nothing as literary as a comedown of an unintended coincidence.
One of the fascinating aspects of this story is that it remains indistinguishable to whom the narrator is addressing his appeal to be found sane. It may be the police; or more likely a judge; or can also be the warden of the prison; or even a group of people gathered to witness him hung up during his execution (Tucker 95). Instead of attempting to prove his innocence, the narrator's long monologue becomes a case in which he tries to prove his sanity. Moreover, he tries to defend his sanity by explaining how wise and cautious he was as he was preparing for the murder. Every night he checked on the old man to make sure he got everything right and get ready to execute his plan. The narration lacks of a concrete explanation of the person or place to which it is addressed, which leaves much room for interpretation for the readers. What we can infer from the story is it is not addressed to the police officers since the narrator says he was successful in making them satisfied. Finally, the climax of the story comes as the revelation of the dead body hidden under the planks. Because the story is told as a memento, our estimation might be that the narrator is addressing a court official or personage who may influence over the judgment of the narrator. Therefore, the story that the narrator is telling is most accurately realized as an appeal for mercy rather than just being an appeal to be thought sane.
We can say that “The Tell-Tale Heart” works on two levels of dramatic irony at the same time. The most obvious level of...