Close Reading- Poe Tell Tale Heart

Close Reading #3 “True! -nervous-very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses-not destroyed-not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How. Then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily- how calmly I can tell you the whole story. ” Romanticism during the second century was highly popular with it’s public. Stories of love gave pleasure to readers and story-tellers alike.

But there was also an alternate to Romanticism, there was Dark Romanticism, were readers explore the unknown of the human psyche. In “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe, creates a narrative with conflicting emotions and justifying his own sanity of contemplating murder. Was the narrator trying to explain to the reader that he is sane by telling the story “calmly”? Or was nervousness an excuse to justify his actions? Poe creates a person trying to explain their sanity through this story, only through the narrative’s perspective.

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In the beginning of this narrative, an unknown man is telling his readers that instead of being insane, he was nervous. Having a nervous condition causes a person to be fully aware of their surroundings and be cautious of their own actions. Typically a “nervous” person wouldn’t out-right say that they are nervous, instead they would keep themselves in isolation. But Poe began with an intense dialogue that created an excitement and edge tone to the narrative.

Wouldn’t the readers think that the narrator was crazy to begin with because of the tone alone? Poe uses lots of short sentences and exclamation points in the first paragraph of the story, it didn’t seem that the narrator was speaking calmly to his readers. The narrator describes that man’s eye and how it bothered him to the point that he committed murder by telling his side of the story. By explaining his actions in great detail made him think that he was actually in the right by committing this murder. For a hole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down, he was still sitting up in the bed listening;-just as I have done, night after night, hearken to the death watches in the wall. (p. 811)” By confessing that he waited for a moment of opportunity of that night to get rid of the old man’s eye, isn’t a statement that a nervous person would make. Poe also makes the narrator give a precise explanation of how he waited in the dark before killing his victim.

Near the end of this short story, the man starts to hear the beating of the dead man’s heart, and ultimately confesses the murder to the police. His nervousness and hearing acute, I believe that it’s plausible that he was hearing his own heart beating instead of his victim, or it could have been that the heart beating was giving the narrator a guilty conscious. Either way, the man is to be seen as insane because of his grossly actions and failing to justify it. ? Poe, Edger Allen. “The Tell-Tale Heart. ” American Literature. Ed. William E. Cain. Vol. 1. New York: Pearson Education, 2004. 201-05. Print


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