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The introductory part will present the The Tell- Tale heart (1843), by Alan Edgar Poe, introducing the main characters viz. the narrator and the old man. The story opens with the unknown narrator confessing he is restless but not harebrained or insane, as some would want to think.
He narrates his story by defending his sound mind although he has murdered an innocent old man. The narrator lives with the old man; however, he claims that his supposedly housemate has an evil blue eye that evokes fear in him (the narrator). At this point, the narrator is not trustworthy because he does not even understand himself; he does not know whether he is psychologically sick or he is just another murderer.
This section tackles the main characters of the story and as aforementioned, the narrator and the old man are the only central characters in the story. The narrator is untrustworthy, self-righteous and a rigid person who leaves no space for learning.
He believes he is sane despite the fact that he kills the old man for no apparent reason. His sanctimonious overtones infringe is trustworthiness. On the other hand, the old man is just a victim of malice or covered insanity.
The plot summary will outline the flow of the story where once more the narrator plays the central role. As the story opens, the narrator insinuates he is insane by declaring he has a story to tell; however, the story is a defense to guard his sanity. Therefore, the events of this section will focus on the narrator as he puts forward his claims of sanity.
However, to understand where all the sanity ‘noises’ are coming from, this section will flashback to the one event that seems to infringe the narrator’s insanity; the murder of the old man. Again, the narrator’s trustworthiness is compromised for by defending his actions, he unknowingly exposes his unreliability.
The overriding theme in this story is the theme of paranoia. As the story opens, the narrator acknowledges that he is nervous for reasons he does not know. The thin, almost confusing, or blurred line between paranoia and madness comes out clearly. People think paranoia is synonymous to madness and perhaps this explains why the narrator is vehement in defending his sanity.
Paranoia in this context also underscores the blurred line between hate and love according to Benfey (78). Ironically, many a time individuals hurt the closest people in their lives. In this section, the narrator is trustworthy; he loves and needs the old man, yet he kills him.
Internal versus external forces
Ironically, the presence of police officers who come to investigate the murder of the old man does not evoke any uneasiness in the narrator. However, the deafening sounds of fear and guilt that haunt the narrator seem to take away his peace. The narrator does not confess the murder because the offices push him; no, he confesses because of guilt and self-conviction.
At this point, the story tries to emphasize that internal forces are stronger than external forces. One can defy and deny external forces like rule of law; however, defying self-conviction is tantamount to committing suicide and the narrator comes out as a trustworthy source of this scenario.
The concluding part of the essay will try to piece together the ideas raised in the story. Running from introduction, though plot summary to themes; this section will give a concise recap of the whole story.
Benfey, Christopher. “Poe and the Unreadable: ‘The Black Cat’ and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.” New Essays on Poe’s Major Tales. United States: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Poe, Allan. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library, 1992. Web.