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The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Poe Research Paper


The short story The Tell-Tale Heart written by Edgar Allan Poe explores the experiences of a person who is overwhelmed by guilt. The author describes the emotions of a person who has committed a murder. His attempts to conceal the crime occupy a central place in this literary work. Overall, the writer shows that guilt deprives a person of his/her rationality and ability to perceive reality in an objective way. Moreover, this feeling often provokes a person’s fear that cannot be explained in any way.

This is the main thesis that should be discussed. This goal is achieved with the help of various literary elements such as character development, setting, imagery, tone, and symbolism. These elements are important for understanding the peculiarities of a literary work (Roberts and Zweig 465).

First of all, one should focus on the main character. One can see that this person presents a conflicting account of the main events. For instance, at the beginning, he says, “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult” (Poe 110). Yet, the narrator does not explain why he decides to murder the old man.

Moreover, one can say that the main character becomes hypersensitive. It seems to him that he can hear virtually every sound “in the heaven and in the earth” (Poe 110). Overall, people, who are overwhelmed by guilt and anxiety, often become very hypersensitive (Adler 97). This is one of the issues that can be distinguished.

Much attention should be paid to the point of view chosen by the author. He relies on the unreliable first-person narration. This technique helps the readers look at the events through the eyes of this individual.

It is possible to see that this person is unable to see the distinctions between imagination and reality. Additionally, the setting of the short story is not specified. The readers do not know when or where the action takes place. In this way, Edgar Poe wants to demonstrate that such experiences may be familiar to people who may represent various cultures.

Moreover, it is important to speak about the use of visual imagery. To a great extent, it is supposed to show that the main character cannot fully retain his sanity (Bloom 174). For example, while describing the old man, the narrator uses such a metaphor as “vulture eye” (Poe 112).

Edgar Poe uses this epithet to illustrate the irrational fear of the narrator. Moreover, one can mention such an image as “hideous heart” which continues to beat even after the death of the old man (Poe 113). This metaphor is necessary to show that the feeling of guilt distorts his perception of reality. Furthermore, this figurative language enables to show that the narrator’s tone is full of paranoia (Scott 166).

Finally, it is vital to speak about the symbolism of this short story. Edgar Poe focuses on the image of a heart which symbolizes the narrator’s guilt or his conscience (Einhorn 7). The main character wants to destroy it, but he fails to achieve this goal. This is one of the details that can be distinguished.

Overall, the discussion shows that Edgar Poe is able to able to make sure that various literary elements serve a single purpose. The behavior of the main character, narration, imagery, and symbolism are used to show how paranoia and guilt can transform the behavior of a person and his/she worldview. In this case, one should speak about the distorted perception of reality and increased sensitivity.

Works Cited

Adler, Alfred. The Collected Clinical Works of Alfred Adler: Journal articles: 1898 – 1909, New York: Alfred Adler Institute, 2002. Print.

Bloom, Harold. Edgar Allan Poe’s the Tell-tale Heart and Other Stories, Boston: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print.

Einhorn, Anja. Perverseness in Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart and Black Cat, New York: GRIN Verlag, 2002. Print.

Poe, Edgar. The Best Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe, New York Digireads.com Publishing, 2010. Print.

Roberts, Edgar, and Robert Zweig. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing,Compact Edition (5th Edition). London: Longman, 2011. Print.

Scott, Jess. Porcelain, Boston: Jessink, 2010.

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S1ren. (2019, February 4). The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Poe [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-tell-tale-heart-by-edgar-poe/

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