The story “The Tell-Tale Heart” deals with the abnormal psyche of the narrator who hates an old man for his pale bluish vulture eye. He is very repulsive to the spectacle of the old man’s vulture eye that he decides and plans to kill the old man in order to get rid of the eye forever. And the narrator succeeds in his plan of murdering the old man. Thus the story is a thesis about personal instabilities and abnormal character. But the theme behind the lines is that conscience often reveals the things, which are beyong the tongue.
In this short story, the writer at once catches the reader and shares the horror and terror experienced by the old man by the fear of the lurking shadow of death. The inner feelings of the murderer and the murdered have been presented artistically. The narrator derides his own folly and emphasizes his madness by providing clear proof of his mental disorder in the description of details and cautions he exerted during the process of murder. (The Tell-Tale Heart)
The aged man in this story suffers from a physical deformity. One of his eyes is just like that of a vulture a place of the blue eye with a film over it. The young narrator in this story is a psychological case who cannot stand this oddity. Gradually, he makes up his mind to take the life of the old man to get rid of his vulture eye forever.
The murderer was residing with an old man in the same building He did not desire any worldly benefit from the man. It was the physical deformity, the oddity of his one eye, resembling that of a vulture, it made his blood run cold. The repulsion gradually mounted and ultimately produced the idea of murder in the mind of the young narrator. (The Tell-Tale Heart)
The narrator made almost perfect preparations to kill the old man. For a week before his murder, he visited the old man’s room every night. He undid the latch and opened the door very gently without producing a slight sound and thrust his head inside the door to have a look in the room. So, he took with him a dark lantern whose covering could be removed more or less as required. He directed a dim say of light rtowards the old man’s bed to find his objective.
For seven nights, he successfully approached into the bedroom of the old man and returned without killing him because he found him asleep and the vulture-like ye closed. It was not the old man who vexed him but his vulture-like eye that pinched him.
On the eight-night, the narrator was unusually careful. He went through all the proceedings of approaching into the old man’s room so smoothly that he felt overjoyed to realize his cleverness. And, he appreciated his own agility and cunningness. He audibly chuckled at his successful proceedings keeping the old man completely unaware. The little move disturbed the old man’s sleep and he turned his side in the bed. The narrator stood still for some time but then he started opening the lantern and his thumb slipped on the tin fastening.
The room was pitch dark, the old man could not see the narrator but the fear of lurking danger had completely enveloped him. Fear had been growing upon the old man since the moment he had become disturbed in his sleep. He uttered a deep groan of fear that rose from the bottom of his perturbed soul. The murderer in the meantime opened his lantern and threw a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider to fall upon the vulturelike eye of the victim. The old man’s vulture-like eye was open and clearly visible. The dull, pale blue-colored eye with a film over it made him furious.
The beating of the heart grew quicker and louder every second. It made the narrator more nervous. He became afraid that the old man’s heartbeat might be heard by some neighbors. So with a loud yell, he leaped upon the old man and dragged him to the floor, and pulled his heavy bed on his frail body. He smiled to find that he had completed his task so well. After some time, the heartbeat of the old man stopped. Then he dismembered the dead body. He removed the three wooden planks from the flooring of the room and deposited the pieces of the dead body there. After counseling the dead body into the “pit”, he replaced the boards cunningly that no human eye could detect any foul play. He completed all his work before 4AM. (The Tell-Tale Heart)
Hardly he had completed his deed when he heard knocking at the door. He found three officers who had come for investigation on the report of some neighbor that he had heard a shriek from the premises of that building. The narrator welcomed them and explained that the shriek was his own cry in the dream. He further told them that the old man had gone out in the country But after some time, the narrator felt restless and he wished for the departure of police officers. Suddenly, he heard the sound of a beating heart coming from the place where the dead body was buried.
To the surprise of police officers, he began pacing to and fro and talking more fluently with a heightened noise. The noise of the heartbeat was audible to the police officers. Hence he began to foam, rave and swear at the officers. At last, the murderer could no longer bear the loud heartbeat. He felt the officers suspected about and they knew the reality. They were laughing and mocking him… He burst at them in anger calling them villains who were disguising themselves to be ignorant. So he cried aloud and confessed his crime and told them to remove the planks and take out the dead body. (The Tell-Tale Heart)
Was the Killer sane?
The way the narrator or the protagonist proceeds in the story shows that he is not a mad fellow. He spends all his ability proving that he is a very wise person possessing great insight and wisdom. And, he pleads that a mad man has no logical sense, whereas he makes a very sensible and practical plan of murdering the old man. He presents a number of reasons to prove his wisdom and cleverness. One-eighth night, he exhibits such a great caution that every night he opens the door and enters the old man’s room without producing any sound. He shows great patience during the execution of his plans and sometimes he waits for a long time without moving even a muscle.
And, he makes the use of lantern so carefully that he directs only a single dim ray on the vulture-like eye of the old man. He attacks the old man very successfully and kills him instantaneously. After killing the old man he disposes of wisely that he could face any detective or police inquiry, with full confidence. He welcomes the policemen with great confidence and boldness. He talks with them in such a convincing manner that they are perfectly satisfied with his statement. In the light of all these logical proceedings, we can say that the narrator is not a mad man. He may be suffering from some psychological problem.
Horror and Suspense
The writer of the short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps the most complex American writer. He can create an atmosphere full of horror, terror, strange fantasies, and psychological abnormalities. Along with the smooth sails of normal and natural episodes, he abruptly catches the reader unaware into some kind of a nightmare that does not let the reader go thereafter. A reader then lives in the world of horror, stupor and discordant realities.
The story is steeped in the atmosphere of horror, humor, and suspense. Horror in the sense of that story describes the gory murder of an innocent old man. There are many remarks, gestures, and actions of the murderer which are full of humor. The reader remains under the spell of suspense throughout the story At the very outset, the subject of murder and a strange psychological disease is introduced. The reader expects something very terrible to take place. The vulture-like eye, the cause of revulsion in the narrator is also unusually terrifying The sight of that eye made the narrator’s blood run cold. The way he proceeds with his plan, the opening of the door, the handling of the lantern, and above all on the eighth night the awakening of an old man in his bed is such a vivid description of a person undergoing mental agony.
The narrator has been preparing the reader for this sinister act. Both the reader and the old man experience the same type of mortal terror. Though he depicts the old man shrieking loudly when the narrator attacks him to kill.
The killer soon feels the sound of the heartbeat coming from the floor. It is a low, quick sound – much like as sound a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. It grows louder and louder that he fails to bear any longer. He tells his whole story to the officers.