The Tell-Tale Heart was published in 1843 and, along with The Raven, it is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s shortest and most famous stories (download a free copy of The Tell-Tale Heart PDF by clicking the button down below). The story is told by an unnamed narrator who tries incredibly hard to convince the reader of his sanity despite admitting to carefully planning out and murdering an old man.
Title: The Tell-Tale Heart
Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Format: A4 PDF
Release Date: April 2000
Copyright Status: Public Domain In The USA
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What Is The Disease Of The Narrator In The Tell-Tale Heart?
In The Tell-Tale Heart, it is thought that the narrator suffers from both Hyperesthesia and Schizophrenia.
At the beginning of the story, the narrator himself tells us that he has sharpened senses that allow him to hear and see things that others can’t.
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.The Tell Tale Heart | Edgar Allan Poe
From his description, we could assume that he has a condition called Hyperesthesia.
Hyperesthesia refers to increased sensitivity of any of your senses, such as sight, sound, touch, and smell. It can affect just one or all of the senses. Often, the heightening of an individual sense is referred to by a separate name. For example, increased sensitivity to touch is called tactile sensitivity, and increased sensitivity to sound is called auditory sensitivity.Healthline | What You Need To Know About Hyperesthesia
We also see that he is completely disconnected from reality. First by not seeing that his obsession with the old man’s eye is not normal and how he tries to justify his feelings. He is also paranoid thinking that people around him can hear everything he hears. From this, we could say that he also suffers from Schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning, and can be disabling.Mayo Clinic | Schizophrenia
The Tell-Tale Heart Summary
The story of The Tell-Tale Heart begins with the unknown narrator telling us that, although he is very nervous, he really isn’t crazy or mad and he spends most of the story trying to convince us of that. He explains that he has sharpened senses that allow him to hear and see things that other people can’t.
He begins his tale by telling us about an old man. Although he loved the old man he became obsessed with his eye and was so disturbed by it that he decided to kill him simply so that he didn’t have to see it again.
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! yes, it was this! He had the eye 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.The Tell Tale Heart | Edgar Allan Poe
Every night at about midnight the narrator would secretly visit the old man’s bedroom. He would shine his lantern into the room but would never see the “Evil Eye” because the old man was fast asleep. The narrator assures us that it wasn’t the old man that angered him but that it was just the eye that he wanted to destroy.
And this I did for seven long nights—every night just at midnight—but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye.The Tell Tale Heart | Edgar Allan Poe
His secret visits continued for seven nights. However, on the eighth night, the old man woke up as the narrator entered his room. The old man asked who was there but the narrator didn’t reply. He stood incredibly still knowing that the old man couldn’t see him because the room was so dark. He stood silently waiting for the old man to go to sleep but the old man didn’t move also just waiting and listening.
Finally, the narrator decided to open up the crevice in his lantern. He opened it slowly and as the light entered the room it fell onto the old man’s eye. The narrator didn’t see anything but the eye. His senses became even more acute and he could hear the old man’s heart beating which made him even angrier.
The two were frozen in position but the narrator suddenly realized that the neighbors would also hear the old man’s heartbeat so he knew it was time to kill him. He leaped towards the old man who screamed in terror.
The old man was dead. Happy that the heartbeat had stopped and that the eye would never haunt him again, the narrator decided that he needed to hide the body so he dismembered it and hid it under the floorboards.
Pleased with his work the narrator realized that it was already four in the morning. Just then there was a knock at the door. He answered it to find three policemen there. The policemen explained that they had received a report from a neighbor who had heard someone scream so they had come to investigate.
The narrator was so confident that he cheerfully invited the officers inside. He told them that he had had a bad dream and that the scream that the neighbors had heard was his. He also explained that the old man was out of the country. He confidently showed the officers around the house and even offered them chairs to sit down and rest. In fact, he was so confident that he placed his own chair directly above the old man’s hidden body.
The police officers were satisfied with everything they had seen but stayed to talk more. The narrator started to feel himself becoming pale and he could hear a ringing in his ears which soon turned into a beating sound which the narrator assumed was the old man’s heartbeat.
It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not.The Tell Tale Heart | Edgar Allan Poe
The sound became louder and louder and the narrator became convinced that the police officers must be able to hear it. Becoming more and more agitated by the heartbeat the narrator shrieked out and confessed to killing the old man revealing that he had hidden the body under the floorboards.
The Tell-Tale Heart is a gothic fiction classic that is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most popular short stories. Just like Roderick Usher in The Fall of the House of Usher, it explores the mental decline and paranoia of its central characters in true Edgar Allan Poe style! This short story is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the gothic horror genre. Download a free copy of The Tell-Tale Heart PDF here.