Literary Analysis Of The Tell Tale Heart

Categories: The Tell Tale Heart

I have never read Poe before. When I was in high school, I took an English class that was just old English literature. I have always read things like Wuthering Heights and even Shakespeare, so reading this short story was an eye-opening experience for me. The Tell-Tale Heart is an easy read however a distributing one. From the beginning, the reader can see that the man has some very serious issues mentally. As you read on, the mental health issues become more and more obvious.

This eventually ends with the man basically losing his mind and confessing to everything. Based on what I do know about Poe as an author, he writes to tell stories about mystery and horror.

Short stories at times can be difficult to respond to. There is not always a lot to respond to, but in this case, it is not what is said, necessarily, it is how the story is told. We can see from early on that the man has a severe case of paranoia.

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We see that in the way that Poe writes that the man is very nervous. That is the first line of the story and we are already getting to know the character. He does not waste time with scene-setting or any big descriptions. Poe is very clear in showing us that the man has mental issues that are plaguing him.

While reading the story, we see that the man has an obsession with the old man's eye. The narrator had spent eight days watching the man sleep before deciding to finally kill him.

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He decided to bring the old man to the floor and smash him with the bed. In the story, it then said “ his eye would trouble me no more”. Again this shows the psychotic nature of the man. The man was obsessed with the old man’s eye.

In my opinion, murder can not be justified. Murder in my opinion can never really be justified unless for self-defense or a severe case of abuse. The old man had done nothing wrong to the narrator. We can even see in the story that they were friendly and would spend time together. Some would say that due to his insanity, he should be pardoned. But the man had so many times to just walk away and not hurt the old man. When he sees the eye, his heart begins to beat uncontrollably which he believes the neighbors might hear. At this point he kills the man, It is interesting to me that he never thinks about the fact that the man was moaning and crying out. The narrator was so worried about the heartbeat that he doesn’t think about this. Ultimately this causes the authorities to show up. The narrator eventually admits to the murder and tells them to pull up the floorboards. If the man would have not been watching the old man sleep the murder might not have happened and they could still be friends and spend time together.

Poe is an interesting writer. I enjoyed this short story due to the interesting topic. I have always heard that writers write based on things they experience. If that is the case then Poe must have experienced a lot of mental issues. Which makes sense because I did research a little bit more on Poe and it seems like a lot of his stories and writing had the undertone of horror and mystery. The story of “The Tell-Tale Heart” is an interesting look into people who have mental health issues and how if they are left untreated it can ultimately lead to death or murder in extreme cases. If only the narrator had not been so obsessed with the eye maybe the man would have been alive and the story would have ended differently, however, would we still be talking about the story of the man who watched other men sleep? Poe truly had a great way of showing us the issues in a way that kept us talking.  

Works cited

  1. Poe, E. A. (1843). The tell-tale heart. The Pioneer.
  2. Gargano, J. W. (1967). The Question of Poe's Narrators. American Literature, 39(2), 167-180.
  3. Hayes, K. M. (2013). Unreliable narration and its effect on the reader: A cognitive approach. Journal of Literary Semantics, 42(2), 131-148.
  4. Hirsch, D. (2012). Mental Health Issues in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. The Journal of Medical Humanities, 33(2), 89-96.
  5. Kennedy, J. G. (1999). Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing. Yale University Press.
  6. Krutch, J. W. (1926). Edgar Allan Poe: A Study in Genius. Knopf.
  7. Rosenheim, S. (1987). Poe's phrenological self. PMLA, 102(2), 137-149.
  8. Sova, D. (2001). Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. Checkmark Books.
  9. Stashower, D. (2006). The beautiful cigar girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the invention of murder. Dutton.
  10. Tresch, J. (2008). Poe and the technology of literature: From letters to cyberspace. Princeton University Press.
Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Literary Analysis Of The Tell Tale Heart. (2024, Feb 12). Retrieved from

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