Discuss The Presentation of Madness in "The Fruit at The Bottom of The Bowl" and "The Tell-Tale Heart"

“The Fruit at The Bottom of the Bowl” (“The FBB”) and “The Tell-Tale Heart” (“The TTH”) are both short stories that include madness, murder and mad killers getting caught. Both stories are written at different periods of time. “The FBB” was written in the twentieth century.

This is indicated by the reference to the type-writer keys, “…who’s fingers had stroked type writer keys,…” and also by the reference of the airport. Both of these were not available before the twentieth century. “The TTH” was written in the pre-twentieth century. The language used throughout the story, such as “vexed” and “hearken”, indicates this. Both of the stories are presented as a short story which has a specific purpose in keeping the reader focused on what is actually happening in the plot and to keep the reader more interested rather than talking about thoughts and ideas that are irrelevant to the story and are which sometimes explored in novels.

“The TTH” is a bout a man who is mad, but he does not recognise this in himself.

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He kills an old man of whom he says he loves because of his eye, by suffocating him with a bed. He then dismembers the old mans corpse and places it under the floorboards. Police officers come to investigate and the madman confesses to his deed as he could not stop hearing the beating of the old man’s heart. Similarly “The FBB” is about another madman who kills a man called Huxley and provides the motive that Huxley knew where his wife was.

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He then realised that he had left fingerprints everywhere and started to clean them off. He then became obsessed with cleaning everything even though he had already cleaned it or he had not touched it. He was then discovered in the morning by a police officer in the attic, cleaning. He was arrested.

In the pre-twentieth, people who were mad and heard voices were often seen as possessed by the devil; mentally disturbed people were often seen as witches and demons. If someone was thought to be mad or insane, they were thought to be incurable, but towards the end of the nineteenth century it was decided that confining mad people actually made the situation worse, so people were allowed some freedom within the asylum. In the twentieth century, they discovered that mental illness was a disease of the human organs. It was believed that it existed from organ abuse. Conditions such as alcoholism and syphilis affected the brain and as such these mental disorders were now seen to be curable.

Two of the most common forms of madness are Neurotic and Psychotic disorders.

Neurotic mad people maintain a normal perception of life and yet are aware that there is something wrong with them. The patient is often anxious and depressed and may have obsessive, compulsive behaviour. They also have headaches, dizziness, loss of memory and a fear of death. In each story there are signs of neurotic behaviour, but it is mainly noticeable in “The FBB”. In “The FBB” Acton shows awareness that something is wrong when “his every impulse exploded him in a hysteria towards the door” after he had murdered Huxley, whereas in “The TTH”, the madman “…placed [his] own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.” Acton, from “The FBB”, is very anxious as he is constantly aware of the time, “he would have to hurry…he had until six in the morning…” this shows similarities with “The TTH” as he became anxious in the time involved in killing the old man and he also thought the neighbours might hear “…a new anxiety seized [him]- the sound would be heard by the neighbours! The old man’s hour had come.” This shows the reader that both the men in each story are definitely mad and they both show signs of Neurotic behaviour. Both stories show that both the madmen are anxious about time. This is important because both stories occur at midnight, which is considered to be the witching hour, and the constant reference to the time and the clock indicates that something bad is going to happen or already has happened.

This creates tension within the reader as the reader knows that something has or is about to happen but is unsure what it is. Another similarity is that both stories show compulsive and obsessive behaviour, more so in “The FBB” than in “The TTH”. “The FBB” shows us that Acton has an obsessive behaviour as he will not stop cleaning everything, “everything glittered. Everything shone, everything was bright…[and] on the way out of the house Acton polished the front door knob with his handkerchief…” In “The TTH”, the madman shows an obsessive behaviour towards the old man, “And every night, about midnight, [he] turned the latch of the door and opened it… and this [he] did for seven long nights…” In both stories there is evidence of neurotic madness, but it is more noticeable in “The FBB” as the madman in this story seems to have most of the symptoms for a neurotically mad person. The madman from “The TTH” shows a few of the symptoms of a neurotically mad person but not as many. This shows us that he is a little neurotic but mainly psychotic. This effects the reader as the reader now understands the behaviour of the madmen from “The FBB” and “The TTH”.

Psychotic madness is when you are unaware that there is something wrong with you and you lose your logical coherence. You often hallucinate, see and hear things that are not there and become very deluded and paranoid. In each story there are signs of psychotic madness. In “The TTH”, the first sign that the madman is psychotic is that he is unaware that there is something wrong with him and he insists that he is not mad, “…why will you say I am mad?” and “would a madman have been so wise as this?” This is different to the “The FBB” because as said above, Acton is aware that he has done something wrong. In both stories the madmen see and hear things, but more so in “The TTH”. The first bit of evidence of this in “The TTH” is when it says, “I heard many things in hell.” and “I found that the noise was not within my ears.” This behaviour continues until the end of the story.

In “The FBB”, the madman sees things to a lesser extent, “There was a spot on the wall behind him. Well wasn’t there?” In “The TTH”, the madman is also deluded, “I chuckled at heart.” From this I could see that “The TTH” is more psychotic than neurotic and “The FBB” shows some characteristics of a psychotic madman, but he mainly a neurotic madman. The psychotic madness in each story make the madmen out to be sick and twisted and it creates tension in the atmosphere as the reader would think that it is a really sick motive for murder, especially in the “The TTH”, just because “one of his eyes resembled that of a vulture…” And also the way he goes about the murder and the dismembering of the old man’s corpse.

The actual motives for murder and the murders themselves are actually very different in each story. In “The TTH”, the madman plans the murder from day one, as he knows exactly what to do and how to dispose of the corpse how he would remove all of the evidence. His motive is a very unreasonable one, but we are clear why he wants the old man dead. “I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture”. This is the motive for murder. He planned everything. “[he] was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before [he] killed him]”. “And every night, about midnight, [he] turned the latch of his door and opened it…” and he watched him and observed him for “…seven long nights”… When he thought the old man’s time was up, he killed him. “In an instant [he] dragged him to the floor, and pulled a heavy bed over him… for a few minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound…

The old man was dead”. It also shows that there was careful planning as he knows exactly what to do with the body, and how to leave no evidence at all. “[he] dismembered the corpse. [He] cut off the head and the arms and the legs. [He] then took up three planks… and deposited all between the scantling… There was nothing to wash out… I had been too weary. A tub had caught all”. This is different to “The FBB” as Acton had not planned the murder and he had not taken the precautions that had been taken in “The TTH”, and the motive is not as specific. “William Acton whose fingers had stroked type-writer keys and made love… had now accomplished murder with those same ten whorled fingers”. “He brushed and massaged the neck…”

This indicates that he strangled Huxley. He is wiping the neck as he is trying to remove his fingerprints as he had not planned the murder and he had therefore not planned to leave any evidence. The motive for the murder is not specifically mentioned but Acton says to Huxley before he kills him, “where’s my wife, Huxley?”. This suggests that perhaps his wife has left him and that he obviously believed Huxley was involved. However, this cannot be a trusted motive as right from the beginning of the story, Huxley shows signs of madness, “It was an artistic conception… the change had done Huxley a share of good”. He also later on in the story starts to hallucinate about a conversation he had had with Huxley, “…your subconscious… made me run about the house handling, touching, fondling books, dishes, doors chairs.” So if he imagined Huxley making him do all of that, maybe he imagined the conversation about his wife. Because he is mad, it is hard to tell. Both of the motives prove to the reader that the men are mad because no sane person would kill a man just because of his eye or because your wife left you.

Each murderer is caught out, both in very different ways, but they both completely lose control after they have committed the murders. In “The TTH”, the madman does not lose control of everything until the Police Officers come and ask questions right at the end of the story. “My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears… the sound increased… It grew louder, louder, LOUDER! … It [was] the beating of the hideous heart!” He could not stand the sound any longer and he thought the officers had heard and knew, so he confesses to the murder, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! – tear up the planks! – here, here! – it is the beating of his hideous heart. In “The FBB”, Acton loses control of the situation nearly straight away as he becomes obsessed with cleaning his fingerprints off everything, even if he had not touched it, “which doors had I used tonight! …

Polish all of them… He glanced at the four walls… without a word he began to scrub the wall… He came to another wall… [he] polished the fruit at the bottom of the bowl… and polished the fruit at the bottom of the bowl… in the attic polishing the old trunks and old frames and old chairs… everything glittered. Everything shone, everything was bright!” This obsessive and compulsive behaviour results in Acton being caught at six thirty in the morning. They found him “in the attic… He was half way through the attic when the Police Officer walked up behind him with a gun”. He was then arrested. To the reader, this shows irony because Acton is so obsessed with cleaning he had forgotten to leave the scene of the crime which is what he had planned to do right at the beginning, “Rush, get away, run, never come back…get the blazes out of here!”

Both stories show the madness as clearly as each other. I know this because throughout the essay, I have clearly stated the madness and different types of madness in both stories. Both of the murders in each story present their madness in a different way. In “The TTH”, it is as if he is already in an asylum and he is trying to convince everyone that he is not really mad. I can tell this from the title “The Tell-Tale Heart”, I can also tell this because he is constantly defending his madness, “Why will you say that I am mad?” In “The FBB” it clearly shows his madness straight away as he thinks that he has made Huxley better by having killed him, “on a whole, the change had done Huxley a share of good. Death had made him a handsomer man…”

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Discuss The Presentation of Madness in "The Fruit at The Bottom of The Bowl" and "The Tell-Tale Heart". (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/discuss-presentation-madness-fruit-bottom-bowl-tell-tale-heart-new-essay

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