Notes-The Tell-Tale Heart: Story of the Murder of An Old Man

Why did the narrator of the story hate the old man? Why did he kill him?                    Or
What was the motive of the murderer to kill the old man?
What was wrong with the eye of the old man? Would anybody wish to kill him because of his eye? Or
Discuss Tell-Tale Heart as a story of the mystery and horror.                             Or
What type of story is the Tell-Tale Heart? What is the purpose of in writing it?

Answer: The murderer himself has narrated the story. He tells us how he developed strong hatred against an old man who resided in the same building. He is surprised to think how he was impelled to kill the old man, as there was no cause of personal enmity between them. He was his friend, and he loved him. He did not kill him for any material considerations. He had never given him insult. He had never wronged him. The words of the narrator throw ample light on the motive for his murder “Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given any insult. For his gold, I had no desire.”  Then we wonder why he wants to kill him. Soon we come to know his frustration and his mental level why did he kill the old man. We see that the story starts confidently and surprisingly: the narrator says, “I loved the old man,” adding,” He had never wronged me.” Next, we see that he was obsessed with the old man’s eye — “the eye of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it.” Without any real incentive, then, other than his psychotic passion, he decides to take the old man’s life.

Even though he is familiar with that we, the readers, might consider him mad for this decision, yet he plans to prove his saneness to show how “wisely” and with what extreme preventive measure, dissimulation, and foresight, he performed his works. Every night at twelve o’clock, he would slowly open the door, “oh so gently,” and would quietly and cleverly thrust his head very slowly. It would sometimes take him an hour to go that far — “would a madman have been as wise as this?” he asks, thus showing, he hopes, how thoroughly objective he can be while commenting on the horrible deed he committed.

The conciseness of the story and its intensity and economy all contribute to the total impact and the overall unity of effect. In the narrator’s belief that he is not mad, but that he heard the heart of the old man still beating, Poe has given us one of the most powerful examples of the capacity of the human mind to deceive itself and then to speculate on the nature of its destruction.

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