Poe, “The Tell-tale Heart”

The first time I read through this short story I thought for sure I was going to write something about insanity but then after the second time reading it I began thinking about the concept of love and hate and how they are supposed to be complete opposites but in reality they blend into each other. In this short story perhaps Poe was showing just how closely love and hate are intertwined. Throughout the story the  narrator is trying to defend his sanity by justifying his actions by describing the measures he took in order to kill the old man; which is what I initially focused on. But then I began to focus on why he is justifying them. Clearly the man is insane, there is no doubt about it but he didn’t kill the man because he hated him. No, he just hated his eye which led him to murder.

“Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. 

I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture- a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees- very gradually- I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.”  (p. 118)

The issue here is that the narrator claims to love a man who he murders and then dismembers. He tries to separate the old man that he loved from his pale blue eye that he hated. “…for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye,” (p. 118). He tries to turn the eye into a separate evil which is what justified his actions. The narrator even says that when he would sneak into the old man’s room at night he could not kill him because he could not see the eye. He doesn’t follow through with the deed until the night when the old man is awake with worry and when he casted a ray of light in the room he was able to see the old man’s eye. At that moment he “…could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person; for [he] had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.” (p.119)

However, in the end the narrator was eaten away by guilt with what he had done. His confession to the police officers was brought on by the loud and insistent beating of the old man’s heart beneath the floor boards. Obviously the heart was not really beating. It was his guilt with what he had just done. The entire time he had tried to separate his love for the old man from his hate for the evil eye, but in the end he wasn’t able to separate the two any longer.

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! -tear up the planks! here, here! -It is the beating of his hideous heart!” ( p.120)

via Poe, “The Tell-tale Heart”.

2 thoughts on “Poe, “The Tell-tale Heart””

  1. Do you think his love for the man made him feel all the more guilty in the end? Do you think his hate extended to himself– his hatred fro what he did as the cause of his confessing?

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