Journal Entry Five: Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart is written through the eyes of a madman who appears to have lost some of his marbles, yet is extremely calculated in his actions. Is the narrator reliable? What does the beating of the heart represent? Also, what is the climax of this story: the murder of the old man or the madman’s confession? Edgar Allan Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart pp. 702-05
The short story “Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe was excellent and brilliant. Poe takes a man who thinks that he is perfectly sane and makes him into a schizophrenic madman. He reasons with himself as he is doing the things that would be considered deranged to justify his actions to himself “…Ha! – Would a madman have been so wise as this?” almost as if he is trying to convince himself it is all okay and sane. To me the beating of the heart represents the increasing excitement the narrator was feeling. As he neared the moment that he was yearning for the heart beat would get louder “but the beating grew louder, louder!” as his excitement grew so did the heart beat.
He claims to be a sane man yet the idea of killing an old man who’s only wrong doing was to have an ”eye of a vulture – a pale blue eye with a film over it” seems to be perfectly acceptable to him “Harken! And observe how healthily – how calmly I can tell you the whole story”. He goes on to say “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye!” Does this sound like the ranting of a sane man? To me it does not. It sounds like a man who is looking at an old man who has done him no wrong yet having the urge to kill him in cold blood. In this urge of his he takes the needed precautions to be undetected up until the very last moment. Going on as though it’s over and done with, he has not been caught and he has the satisfaction of completing his task with a drop of blood anywhere “there was nothing to wash out – no stain of any kind – no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all – ha! Ha!”
After he succeeds in killing the old man and neatly placing him underneath the bedroom floor boards he must then get around the police who have shown up to investigate the suspicions of a neighbor, after thinking he was so cunning and wary he finds that there is something to answer too. He manages to remain calm until he begins to hear “the sound a watch makes when enveloped in cotton”. He then became paranoid and what was probably the faint ticking of a wrist watch was now the loud chime of a grandfather clock. He then looses the shred of sanity he had left and began to spout to the officers of what he had done and where the old man could be found “Villains!” I shrieked. “Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! – tear up the planks! – here, here! – it’s the beating of his hideous heart!” This to me is the climax and the lesson in the story. No wrong deed passes guilt free. (Poe, 2008)
Poe, E. A. (2008). Tell-Tale Heart. In The Norton Anthology – American Literature (pp. 702-705). New York: W. W. Norton & Co.