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Tell Tale Heart Literary Criticism Essay

The tell-tale heart is a story by Edgar Allan Poe about the narrator who has committed murder. The tell-tale heart is symbolic of guilt and can be seen through the narrator’s constant mention of it throughout the story. Also, when he says “I feel that I could not live without committing at least one more crime,” which illustrates his need to please himself before others. This essay will explore how this tell tale heart literary criticism essay presents symbols in order to represent certain themes, such as guilt and pleasure in an interesting way.

Essay 1


Edgar Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart is one of the most famous works. The remarkable figure in the story, who is also the narrator, attracts a lot of interest from readers. People tend to overlook aspects about themselves and others that the character reveals. Most of Edgar Poe’s writings include themes of death, egoism, and evil. Because of this analysis, The Tell-Tale Heart falls under the same circumstances as before. The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe, is the focus of this essay. The psychological method is used in the analysis. There are several types of literary psychological evaluation. The narrator serves as the tale’s foundation. The protagonists are at the center of all of the tale’s themes.

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In this literary analysis of Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, the themes of death, ego, and evil are examined. This critical analysis focuses heavily on the concepts of ego and evil. The narrator’s actions are strongly influenced by these two ideas. Ego and evil play a significant role in determining the narrator’s actions. In analyzing the narrator’s attitudes towards the old man, Freud’s psychological approach is useful.

Summary of the Story

In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the first person perspective is used. The protagonist also assumes the role of narrator. He starts the tale by defending his sanity and denying that he’s insane, as others claim. “I am,” says the narrator, “and I confess that I was nervous -extremely so; but why will you say that I am mad? The sickness had sharpened my senses, not dulled them” (par. 1). Poe does not indicate whether the narrator is male or female in this case. ‘He’ is a vague gender connotation used to describe the narrative voice without implying anything about its sex.

The narrator says that they are unwell. They maintain, however, that the illness has sharpened their senses. The disease has not driven them insane. In an attempt to show their sanity to the audience, the narrator begins his narrative. The events described in the tale occur at a residence where the narrator lives with an elderly companion as a companion. The narrator claims that he was very fond of the old man. As a result, they had no motivation or incentive to murder him, even for his money. According to the narrator, he cherished his elderly partner very much .

The narrator and the old man were on good terms; thus, the narrator was not interested in robbing him (Poe par. 2). It appears, however, that the old man had a malformed eye that motivated the narrator to commit murder. In reality, if it were not for his eye, the tale would have been completely different. As a result, there is a reason why the narrator wants to kill the old man.

They think about how to carry out the atrocity. They followed their companion for seven nights in a row. They went as far as strengthening their attachment to him in order to keep him close. On the eighth night, an opportunity presented itself, and the narrator murdered his grandfather.

The body concealment occurs with great care, and the act of murder is carried out with extreme caution. However, a last-minute shriek from the old man, or possibly the narrator’s ecstatic shout, altered the situation. The police’s arrival was met with a warm welcome from the narrator. They attribute their presence to an urgent scream they had heard emanating from the home.

The old man’s body was not discovered during the police search. The narrator eventually brought the two policemen into the deceased old gentleman’s bedroom to talk. However, while in there, the narrator imagined hearing the old man’s heart beat. As the narrator and the two cops spoke inside of his room, the heartbeat became louder and louder until it scared him. Finally, he admitted to murdering the elderly individual and offered evidence by showing where he had hidden his dismembered remains to police officers.

Major Literary Components in the Story The Tell-Tale Heart

Plot: Psychological Journey. Poe takes a unique approach to writing his narrative. The story is told by the main character, who also commits the terrible crime. As a result, we assume the tale is meant to be apologetic. Given that even the narrator claims they can demonstrate their sanity to the reader, it’s clear that this is a confession.

The location of the narrative is unknown. It appears that the scenario takes place in a courtroom, based on the tale. Given that the court may have labeled the narrator insane, this appears to be a reasonable assumption. The story closes with the narrator directing police officials to where he hid the corpse. As a result, they’re most likely making their confession while in custody.

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Themes in the Story

The theme of guilt is evident in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. The tale is filled with various motifs, according to different analyses. According to the current study, which employs literary criticism as a psychological technique, the story contains several themes. As a result of this method of analysis, it appears that there are many themes in the narrative.

The major themes in the tale include ego, murder, vice, madness, and guilt. Others include realism views, justification, time, and cleverness. Evil, ego, murder, and insanity are key themes in the narrative. The narrator states right from the start that they are sane. As a result of this statement , the narrator goes over their sickening act to prove their sanity. Even after detailing their terrible crime , the narrator continues to insist on their mental health. They claim that they took numerous precautions to hide their tracks; something only a sane person could accomplish (Poe par 8).

In some cases, the narrator reminds the audience of how effectively they murdered their victim. The claim is clear when they say, “You think I’m insane.” Madmen understand nothing; but you should have seen me. You should have seen how carefully I proceeded – with what caution – with what foresight – with what dissimulation I went to work!” (Poe par. 3). The narrator was convinced that his sanity would soon desert him. He entered Freud’s psychic zone of the id, which is characterized by an excitement that is unorganized and lacking in willpower. It’s a spontaneous desire driven by the needs and pleasures of the individual (Freud 103).

The narrator’s purpose in murdering the old man is amusing, if not completely ludicrous. When the narrator says that the elderly individual had a vulture’s eye, his ‘admitted motive’ becomes apparent. They characterize it as a “pale blue eye with a film over it, which seemed to leer at me when I looked towards it” (Poe par. 2).

The killer’s execution is almost flawless. The narrator leaves no traces behind. Their confession, on the other hand, raises questions about their sanity. Considering how they murdered and dismember the old man’s body for concealment, it’s clear that the narrator is a merciless murderer. It becomes obvious early in the tale that the subject of obsession and, to some extent, guilt is at play. When viewing his malformed eye, the desire to murder the old man grows dramatically.

The narrator’s fixation on the deformed eye grows increasingly evident. When the narrator sees the old man in bed, his desire to murder him based on his bad eye intensifies. The narrator does not appear to have obvious psychological reasons for his actions. Killing the elderly individual as a result of emotions generated by their eyes, on the other hand, is an indication of a possible motivation. Motives for particular behaviors are derived from ideas, sentiments, and fantasies after all. In fantasizing about murdering the old gentleman, the narrator exposes this aspect of human thinking.

The narrator’s strange behavior and his/her fixation with the creature combine to create an indisputable fact that the narrator is insane. In reality, the narrator claims that the heartbeat of the elderly man drove them nearly insane, to the point where they confessed to murdering him. They tell how they yelled and led police officials to its location (Poe par. 10).

The Characters in the Story

The main characters in the tale are as follows: narrator, an elderly guy (who becomes the victim), a neighbor, and three police officers. The narrative, on the other hand, focuses more on the narrator than it does on any of the other individuals. The narrator and the old man are, in fact, the main characters. The other four characters are only supporting players. Poe isn’t sure about the identity of the narrator’s audience. With the confession, it’s difficult to tell whom the narrator is trying to persuade.

Narrator Literary Criticism

The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe, is all about human nature. The narrator’s perspective paints a vivid picture of human nature. The narrator is certain in the completion of the horrendous act. They are willing to confess about their involvement. The desire to prove their sanity adds an extra layer of intrigue. As a result, the narrator constructs a portrait of self-esteem, self-assurance, and lack of guilt in his mind.

In terms of the narrator, the narrative is effective rhetoric. The narrator repeatedly makes the reader view their actions with scorn throughout the tale. Perhaps, as Zimmerman suggests, The Tell-Tale Heart is essentially a type of judicial courtroom rhetoric – legal (Zimmerman Frantic Forensic Oratory 34). The narrator seems intent on convincing someone with his or her admission. When they state that lunatics know nothing, it is clear that they are steadfast (para. 3). The narrator’s use of “you” indicates clearly that he or she is addressing someone else.

Perhaps the narrator is writing to or conversing with this “you.” The narrator attempts to persuade and lead the audience toward their viewpoint. In other words, it’s obvious that the narrator has already admitted to the crime. Before their confession, they have already shown police the body (Poe par. 10).

The narrator in the tale is defending themselves. They do not hold malicious crimes in any degree of hatred or contempt. From this study, it’s clear that one major aspect of human nature is shared by many people. Many individuals tend to ignore their own flaws and shortcomings. They may strive to hide their faults and deficiencies at all costs (Bonaparte 32).

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In the narrative, therefore, we have a ‘person’ named “Mouthing Back,” who can be interpreted as a kind of representative for all individuals. This person’s terrible nature is due to his or her desire for power and dominance. In essence, ego-evil refers to human behavior that is driven by the aspiration for selfish benefits and greed, according to Zizek (70).

The narrator’s actions are marked by behavior that is both strange and erratic. The conduct of the narrator is very apparent in this regard. When one disregards the sanity of the narrator, which they seem to argue loudly, a reasonable cause for their conduct would be lost. “I loved the old man,” says the narrator (para 2).

It is clear from the preceding discussion that it is reasonable to associate the narrator with ego-evil behavior. In essence, the narrator’s behaviors are driven by some sort of ideological ideal. Their fanatical loyalty (Ki 25) is also a motivator behind their actions. The narrator’s egocentrism may be seen in their “over-identification” with the ideas they hold. Such a characteristic of the narrator eventually leads to “narcissistic ‘denigration’ of others and violation of human laws,” as Zizek puts it (70).

The narrator explains that he murdered the old man because of his horrible eye. In other words, the narrator confesses to having committed the crime due to his vulture eye (Poe par. 2). Such an explanation provides a lot of insight into the narrator’s mental state. The fact that the old man’s eye was comparable to that of a vulture provided the narrator with the urge to commit the offense.

They may fatally harm the man with such a mindset. As a result, the narrator judged the old man on personal ties rather than reality. (25) Ki (25) explains this behavior from a psychological viewpoint. According to Ki (25), an intentional misjudgement of another person is an indication of one’s own errors. It implies that the self lacks perception (Ki 25). The narrator would be relieved of his ‘tormenting’ eye if he killed the old man. From a psychological standpoint, this appears to be true.

The narrator, like the protagonist, is a self-misrepresentation. Their personality also demonstrates that the narrator has an unbalanced sense of self-worth and righteousness. Both of these characteristics are exaggerated in relation to the narrator. From the start of the tale, the persona appears driven to emphasize their strengths, which are under scrutiny.

The persona describes the disease as only enhancing their senses. They claim to have heard voices from heaven and earth. This, according to them, is ample proof that they are sane and not insane (Poe par. 1). The narrator’s sense of self is shattered, especially when it comes to his or her senses. Such a muddled notion of self naturally leads to another conclusion. The conclusion is that the narrator is insane. The narrator’s crazed state is the first impression made on the reader’s mind at the outset of the story. The narrator, on the other hand, tries to disprove this in his tale.

The narrator’s persona is described as a ‘self-posing’ individual in the final analysis. They strive to create the appearance of someone who is very correct. On that night, they say, they discovered their abilities. When they realized how smart they were, they were overjoyed (Poe par. 4). Such an ‘image of self’ entails that the narrator enjoys using their capabilities on others.

The narrator is also endowed with perceptions of own power, triumph, and wisdom, all of which suggest that he likes to dominate the helpless. Despite his blindness and age, the old man was fast asleep and half-blind because of the darkness, yet the narrator was confident in murdering him. In Poe’s tale, Pitcher (232) depicts the protagonist as someone who lives in a universe where the self is the only god that exists.

At the end of the day, it is evident that the narrator fails to persuade the audience of their sanity or importance. The narrator appears to be very well-versed in different debating strategies, according to Melville (34). They are doing all possible to persuade people. Initially, the narrator claims to be aware of what people think about him. The narrator is fully conscious that the audience regards them as a hostile, anxious, and crazy person. As a result of this knowledge, the narrator endeavors to win over anybody who is listening to him or her.

The narrator utilizes a form of appeal to the audience’s intellect in an effort to assuage their animosity. This appeal is also intended to increase audience receptiveness. The narrator informs the audience that they would have been able To see for themselves how efficient and wise they are (para. 3).

The narrator employs concession strategically as an ethical appeal. They attempt to impress the audience by demonstrating that they are capable of making honest admissions. They make the statement that they are a nice person with a strong and confident demeanor. They attempt to demonstrate their ability to masterfully concede and negate opposing viewpoints.

Claggart’s psychoanalytical viewpoint can sum up Poe’s character in the tale (as seen in Melville). As a result, “the narrator’s even temperament and discriminating bearing would suggest an individual particularly susceptible to the law of reason” ( Melville, 76). The narrator has nothing to do with logic.

They only utilize it as a “ambidexterity” term for inexplicable sentiments. Such an analysis implies that the narrator is committing wanton atrocities, which appear to be the exclusive domain of the insane. They’re carrying out these activities on the basis of very ‘direct’ and ‘cool’ decisions. As a result, one may infer that the narrator is a madman and extremely dangerous. Poe effectively maintains an objective distance while telling the tale and observing as his reader negotiates etiological irony (Moral Insanity or Paranoid Schizophrenia? 42)

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In most of his homicidal narratives, Poe employs rhetoric in a deliberate and intentional manner. He also uses irony in almost all of his debates. In the narrative The Tell-Tale Heart, most of Poe’s characters attempt to defend their actions by offering “reasonable” justifications that are not quite so reasonable. This is evident in the tale The Tell-Tale Heart.

Essay 2

The Tell-Tale Heart, like many of Poe’s other works, is a macabre tale. This particular one focuses on the events that led to the death of an elderly man, as well as what happened after. That’s all there is to it, but there are several significant meanings hidden within the three-page short story. Poe employs first person narration, irony and style in order to create a convincing feeling of paranoia.

In this case, Poe decided to use the first-person narrative. This style is frequently effective in gaining access to the protagonist’s thoughts and presenting them to the reader. The narrator of The Tell-Tale Heart tells how he murdered the old man while claiming his sanity.

Poe’s economic style of writing is an important tool in making this tale fantastic. He employs his style in this narrative to fully express the message he intended for it – a look at paranoia. For example, “I adored the old man. He had never mistreated me. He had never done anything to offend me. I didn’t want his gold because I didn’t care about money.” It was his eye! Yes, it was that!

He had a swollen, discolored eye that looked like a vulture’s — a pale blue one with a film over it. My blood ran cold whenever it fell on me, and so I gradually made up my mind to take the old man’s life and get rid of the evil eye forever. It is simple to see that Poe employed short paragraphs to portray the rapid ideas of a warped mind.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this narrative is irony, both verbally and dramatically. At the end, we may observe that what the narrator tells the cops and how he acts on the outside (in a “cool manner,” as he terms it) differs significantly from what goes on inside him.

He considers the cops to be “villains,” but he has to keep them there due to the circumstances. The more he believes he is acting rationally near the end of the tale and that he appears cool, the more he eventual reveals that it was him who murdered the old man after all. Because we know the narrator is the one who killed the old guy, dramatic irony exists.

Essay 3

In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allan Poe depicts a lot of sanity, guilt, and nervousness throughout the tale. Guilt and innocence are two themes that appear frequently in the narrator’s account of his reasons for his actions and mental status. It is stated that the narrator does not want to murder an old man because he has been wronged or insulted; rather, it is due to his vulture blue eye.

The old man’s eye follows him everywhere he goes, the narrator claims. He is tormented by the image of the old man’s eye 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Though the narrator understands that this rationale appears to confirm his madness.

But you should have seen me. You should have seen how carefully, with what caution, with what foresight, and with what dissimulation I went to work! During the whole week leading up to the murder of the old man, I was never more kind to him than I was during that period.” (Poe, 1843)

As the narrative continues, additional events take place to demonstrate the narrators insanity, such as how he cuts up his body and hides it under the floor boards of his home. The fact that the narrator believes he hears the dead man’s heart is perhaps the most telling aspect of his madness. In conclusion, in Edgar Allan Poe’s tale “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a lot of sanity, guilt, and anxiety is communicated throughout the whole story.

Guilt and innocence are themes that recur in the narrator’s description of his cognitive thinking process for his actions and mental condition while preparing to murder an old man. The narrator demonstrates sanity and madness through his continuous reassurance to the reader that he cannot be insane since he planned carefully and murdered a grandparent.

The narrator demonstrates his guilt and innocence through his pride in how he handled the cops, followed by a few seconds of shame and uncertainty when he confesses to the police that he committed the crime. Poe is asking the reader to examine their definition of sanity and their method of justifying certain throughout the narrative.

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