Poe has given his narrator in “The Tell Tale Heart” multiple currently diagnosable psychological disorders: bipolarity, obsessive compulsive disorder, psychopathy, paranoia. Although he is a psychopath by Hare’s definition, among the disorders, the narrator’s sense of fear is overwhelmingly the most motivating. On a first reading, it might seem that the narrator committed murder because of his unjustified hatred towards the victim, or more specifically, the victim’s “evil eye.” And later, he confesses to his crime because of the overwhelming guilt he feels which causes him to hear the beating of the dead man’s heart. However, as a psychopath, the narrator is incapable of feeling guilt. I will demonstrate that it is not hatred toward what is outside of the self that drove the narrator to murder and confession but the hatred and the immense fear of the insane side of himself that drove him to such irrational actions.
After the burying the corpse beneath the floorboards, the narrator, being proud of his work, states that “no human eye – not even his – could have detected anything wrong.” To the narrator, the old man is able to see beyond what the average person can see. One might assume that it was the fear of the eye’s judgement that caused the narrator to resort to murder. Although this is true, a stronger motivation was the fear of his own insanity. The fact that he feared the eye made him see the irrational side of himself. In refusal to acknowledge his mental disorder, the narrator gives an alternative name to his paranoia, characterized by an oversensitivity to sound: “nervousness.” The phrase “I have nothing to fear” right after the murder as well as in the presence of the police is repeated because he’s trying to convince himself that he should not be paranoid, which he associates with insanity.
The obsession with the old man’s eye was due to an obsession with asserting his own sanity.
The eye is described as “the eye of a vulture” and an “Evil Eye.” Little does the narrator know, the same description can be given to his own eyes. In a play on words, the “eye” represents the “I” in the narration. Seeing the eye is like seeing himself in a mirror. The way he sees the eye “with perfect distinctness” on the eighth night can also be said about how he sees his insanity: the “I.” The narrator has projected his fear and self-hatred of his insanity onto the old man’s eye. The “evil eye” like a mirror, reflects to him the “evil” and “vulture” like part of himself that he knows others would consider insane. Vultures as scavengers that prey on the dead and the near dead are similar to the narrator when he preys on an aging man who is approaching natural death. This fear of his own mental disorder gave the narrator the need to purge the insane part of himself by eradicating the eye of the old man.
The old man’s eye has a “film over it” probably because of a medical condition but when the narrator’s eyes that parallel the old man’s can also be...