THE MADNESS OF THE NARRATOR IN “THE TELL-TALE HEART”
By phamho. Friday, May 25, 2007 4:47:42 AM
“The tell-tale heart” is a story about a person killing an old man with vulture eye and afterward admitting the crime. The narrator was sexually unidentified as well as not directly characterized by the writer. The narrator himself confirmed that he (I may use “he” to refer the narrator for convenience) was not mad, but the way he thought and his actions make me unable not to say him a mad person.
The narrator kept saying that he was not a mad man, that he was very alert and cunning, and that a mad man could not do things he did, which prove he was mad. For sure, a drunken man rarely says “I am drunk” and a mad man never knows he is mad. I think the situation is the same with the narrator. From the beginning, I had never had an idea that the narrator was mad until he began to say: “You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing …” My suspicion was greater when he continued talked about his madness: “Ha! Would a madman have been so wise as this?”, then “And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses?” and then “If you still think me mad …” His strong reactions about the fact that people might think he was mad – actually, that was just his imagination – denounced his madness.
The narrator wanted to kill an old man – a human being – just because of his vulture eye was very abnormal. It was very eccentric reason. He used to assert, “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire.” Thus, there was actually no reason to kill that old kind man. A normal person will not kill a human of no sin who unfortunately has a deformed eye, except that person is mentally disordered. He tried to separate the vulture eye from the old man and thought that he killed that evil eye, not the old man. Meanwhile, we all can see a fact that killing the eye means killing that old man and that we cannot separate it from a person.
An ordinary man will execute his scheme as soon as he has a chance. However, the narrator waited for seven days to kill the old man “And this I did for seven long nights, every night just as midnight ….” Every night, he murmured outside the door of the old man's bedroom, moved slowly, holding a lantern in his hand, carefully opened the door, and was very cautious with every movement just to look at the old man sleeping with his closed eyes. Seven days, seven opportunities with much his time and effort were missed by himself. Just as the eighth night when he saw the evil eye opened, he committed the crime. His action certainly resulted from a disordered mind; and one more time it showed his abnormal thought that he was just killing the evil eye.
Next, the way he killed the old man and treated his dead body proved he was mad. While killing and chopping a man was a severe crime, he was very excited and proud to do that. He thought chopping a human was okay and he did id even when the old man had been “stone dead.” It was often a thought of a mad murderer who was so crazy and eager to kill his victim. Moreover, he boasted about his concealment of the body. He hided the dead body “so cleverly so cunningly, that no human eye – not even his – could have detected anything wrong.” And he was actually so cunning that I thought the police would not find out the truth. Again, he was not normal. He invited the police to go into the room that he killed the old man. He put a chair right upon the spot he hided the body and sat on it. This murderer dared to take risk because he was too confident about his cleverness, because he thought everything he did was logical and perfect. His overconfidence was again a very abnormal thing.
If a slaughterer kills someone for money, because of revenge or love, it can be understood. Meanwhile, the narrator in this story built up revenge with an ugly eye which made him frightened. It was just an eye, a harmless eye, everyone knows that. However, the narrator seemed to be so afraid of it, so obsessed of if that he thought it was a dangerous enemy. A person who was obsessed of one eye, tried to eliminate it, then laugh satisfactorily when it was abolished, and then was overconfident about the work, and finally himself admitted the crime. It was totally the actions of a mad slaughterer. It was the symptoms of a person with paranoia.
The heartbeats could be heard many times by the narrator, but never did he realize they were just his own heart beating. It was the heart beating that urged him to kill the old man, “I was the beating of the old man heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of the drum stimulates the soldier into courage.” It was also the heart beating that drove the murderer so crazy that he had to admit the deed, “… Tear up the planks! Here, here! – It is the beating of his hideous heart!” He, in all times, thought that the heart beating was that of the old man. In fact, it was his own hatred that committed him into crime and it was his conscience that results his confession. He was mad because he could not realize this. He was mad because he was unable to control his own emotions, his abhorrence that were purely the reason for his crime.
From what we have discussed, the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” could not be a man with merely normal mind. Everything from his point of view was very strange or he seemed to look at the reality very differently from normal people. Edgar Allan Poe successfully analyzed the psychology of a criminal who suffered from paranoia which made him unable to control his emotions and his spirit.