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Paranoia in Prose An analytical treatment of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”

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In Edgar Allan Poe’s classic work, “The Tell-Tale Heart” we meet an unnamed, gender neutral, narrator who presents a story of madness in the first person. I suspect this ambiguity with gender was purposeful on Poe’s part so as not to allow any preconceived notions about the motives that the narrator may have. For my purposes, I will assume the narrator is male. This narrator lives with an old man whom he claims to have a genuine love and respect for. It soon, however, becomes alarming clear the narrator is mad. What follows is my analytical review of this characters mental state.
(Poe)
The first hint that something is awry with our narrator is when he relates that he has suffered from some malady which goes without added elaboration. While he mentions no specific ill affects of this ailment, he claims that “the disease had sharpened my senses” and “Above all was the sense of hearing acute.” This improved hearing will play a critical role later in the story, and yet is also a point of contradiction as well. Next, he tells us that he “cannot say how first the idea entered my brain.” However this happened, he has clearly become consumed by it. He confirms this when he says how it “haunted” him “day and night.” I suggest that this preoccupation is a mental defect since it obstructs normal cognitive harmony. What is in my mind the some of the strongest evidence for his madness is when he admits to loving the old man who “had never wronged” him, yet he becomes obsessed with eliminating one of the man’s eyes. It seems to me that the old man has a cataract or some other condition of the eye making it a pale blue color. Our narrator is so distressed by the gaze of this one eye that his “blood ran cold” whenever it fell upon...


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...e as villains when he confesses. This suggests to me that he is unable to see his own actions as evil. Instead he seems to feel that the world is out to get him. The old man’s eye, the police, the neighbor who reported the noise, all of them are in his mind are conspiring against him.
(Poe)
In summary, there is much evidence to show that the narrator has gone mad in this story. Much of it has to do with the dichotomy of love and hate, reality and illusion. We see that narrator has trouble in distinguishing between what is real and that which is imagined. His mental state cannot be logically considered sound by any objective means. At several points in the story he displays his lack of connection with reality. He continually makes reference to his sanity all the while acting on thoughts that are clearly not bound by normal standards of mental acuity.




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