The Tell Tale Heart
A widely acclaimed author named Edgar Allan Poe is known for his bizarre stories on murderers, madmen and mysterious women. In his short story, “The Tell Tale Heart”, the narrator leads us through his thoughts on himself and the actions he took on the old man. The narrator cunningly devised a plan to kill an old man because of his vulture-looking eye. For him, the eye was very disturbing and he decided to forever get rid of it. He doesn’t even find himself mad for doing so. Isn’t it funny how the insane never admit to them being crazy?
“The Tell Tale Heart” shows us a fine example of how insane people view themselves and what we think of them as. Thus, this essay will elaborate on the differences between the narrator’s perception of himself and the reader’s perception of him. Firstly, the narrator views himself as an ordinary person, who is nowhere near insane. According to the text, it states, “…I had been and am, but why will you say that I am mad? The disease has sharpened my senses-not destroyed not dulled them,”(Poe 294). The narrator does not find himself crazy for murdering the old man and finds his actions to be normal.
Along with that, the narrator thinks of himself for being very wise. For example, “You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded with what caution-with what foresight-with what dissimulation I went to work! ”(Poe 295). He found himself very clever for devising a plan with such precise steps and how he made sure to have no trace of blood left behind. As you can see, the narrator views himself as a normal person who is not crazy. Secondly, the reader’s perception of the narrator contrasts greatly from the narrator’s perception of himself.
Readers find the narrator absolutely insane for the actions he has committed. He killed the old man just because one of his eyes looked like a vulture’s and frightened him. In the text, it states, “One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture-a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees-very gradually-I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever, “(Poe 295). The narrator was so evil to kill the old man just to get rid of the eye. After that, the narrator dismembered the corpse of the old man. Poe wrote “If still you
fancy me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body…I cut off the head and the arms and the legs… I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye –not even his –could have detected anything wrong,” (Poe 300). A sane person would not have murdered a man for his eye and would not have said that it wasn’t insane. Hence, the reader’s perception of the narrator is different from what the narrator thinks of himself.
Clearly, there are many differences between the narrator’s perception of himself and how readers viewed him. On one hand, the narrator thought he was sane and wise. On the other hand, readers believed him to be inane and completely out of his mind. This story plays a big role in perception as it happens in modern day society. How we perceive ourselves may be different than what others perceive us as. Nora Ephron, an American journalist, director and novelist once said, “Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy. “