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The Rejection in the Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe Essay

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Updated: Feb 19th, 2022

Edgar Allan Poe is among the most prominent authors in the genre of gothic fiction. His works have gained significant popularity, which resulted from a particular style, narrative, and approach to characters. Through various prisms – starting from the psychological and ending with detective one – Poe’s protagonists always seem to be a relevant and exciting theme to discuss. The Tell-Tale Heart might be considered as a spectacular piece of reading written in the form of a short novel. Its main character narrates the story about how he committed a murder; after what he cannot bear this burden and rejects to accept it – he confesses. In this paper, the theme of the protagonist’s rejection in The Tell-Tale Heart will be explored.

The story is told from a first-person narrative by the protagonist without a name. He infuses on being sane; however, he suffers from an unnamed psychic disease that gives rise to “over-acuteness of the senses” (Poe 2). The main character depicts his nervousness and the feeling of fear and anger caused by the old man’s vulture eye. The protagonist focuses on emotions that this eye induces within him and claims that the man should be killed in order to “rid myself of the eye for ever” (Poe 1). He states that one could think that these are the thoughts and actions of a psycho. Nevertheless, he argues that a madman could not have committed such a perfect and sophisticated crime. He explains how he rubbed into the man’s trust by visiting him every morning for seven days. During the period, the protagonist also attended the old man’s room at night, waiting to see the vulture eye opened, “it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye” (Poe 1). The primary character’s aim was not to murder the poor graybeard but to satisfy his melancholic and vulnerable essence.

In the eighth night, the protagonist finds the old man awake and kills him. After he gets sure that the man’s heart is not beating, he claims, “He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more” (Poe 3). Then, he carefully dismembers the body and hides the parts under the floorboards so that nobody could mention anything suspicious. When the police officers come, he feels light-hearted and easily convinces them that it was his yield in the night and that the old man is away. However, during the conversation, the main character starts hearing a strange sound becoming louder. It was the heartbeat of the dead man that the protagonist could take no more. He thinks that the police are simply making a mockery of his horror and points on the planks under which the body was hidden.

It seems reasonable to state that Po put plenty of important issues in his story, and the phycological one is among them. The way the protagonist delivers his thoughts and vision of the situation might be characterized, as mentioned above, melancholic and even paranoid. He is passionate about the murder, although he does not admit it. The inner contradictions regarding the fact that he did not hate the old man but wanted to kill him because of the eye lead to the destruction of his consciousness. This “destruction then becomes self-destruction, the madman and his victim being aspects of the same universal identity” (Robinson 377). It is evident from the point that the protagonist starts hearing the old man’s fictional heartbeat – his nature rejects the burden of murder and makes him shout out the confession.

This rejection reveals Poe’s notion that the human essence is incompatible with the idea of killing a person. The fact of assassination starts being an integral part of memory that makes people who they are. Whatever extent of insanity is characteristic of an individual, he or she cannot keep a murder secret – it is vital to repent and face the pain boldly. To conclude, on the narrative of the main character, Poe shows that the acceptance of a kill is impossible for a person – ultimately, he or she will confess.

Works Cited

Poe, Edgar. repositorio.ufsc.br, 1843.

Robinson, A. “Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 19, no. 4, 1965, pp. 369–378.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "The Rejection in the Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe." February 19, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-rejection-in-the-tell-tale-heart-by-edgar-allan-poe/.

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