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A Tell-Tale Heart

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'A Tell-Tale Heart' The 'Tell-Tale Heart' first appeared in 1843 when it was published in The Pioneer. It is a short story centred, as customary for Poe, on the gruesome murder of a helpless and vulnerable member of society by a verifiable psychopath. The story is fairly well known but no where more so than America. In America Poe was often hailed as the inventor of science-fiction and the perfecter of Gothic horror. He was incredibly popular because he touched on subjects which people were intensely curious about but, because of taboos, were not openly talked about such as death, mutilation, fetish, madness etc... The title, with its short and strange nature immediately captures the reader's attention if not their imagination. Its meaning is as shifting and enigmatic as the story itself and bodes well for the rest of the story. The meaning only becomes apparent after the story has been read as it links in strongly with the climax. Nevertheless as the title is usually the first thing the reader sees, it has a very strong impact and sets the tone for the rest of the story. Some may say that the title suggests a strong sense of irony and betrayal in light of the fact that although the narrator strives to establish the rationalism in his deranged thought patterns, he is inevitably betrayed by his 'heart', by the human emotions that have been repressed in his madness. ...read more.


Neither the narrator's name nor the reason he is staying with the old man is mentioned. Definition of a Psychopath: 'someone who shows a pathological degree of specific emotional instability without specific mental disorder; someone suffering from a behavioural disorder resulting in inability to form personal relationships and in indifference to or ignorance of his or her obligations to society, often manifested by antisocial behaviour such as acts of violence, sexual perversion etc...' extract taken from 'The Chambers Dictionary' Definition of monomania: Mental illness in which the mind is consumed by a single thought or idea; fanatical enthusiasm for a single subject or activity. extract taken from 'The Chambers Dictionary' We don't know what the narrator looks like but we become intimately knowledgeable about the dark corners of his mind. The old man is only described from the narrator's point of view and even then the only part of the old man that was described was his eye. Apart from that all we know is that he is old and weak. His whole motive seems to have stemmed from the appearance of the old man's eye which is described as: 'He had the eye of a vulture - a pale blue eye, with a film over it.' What he is describing is probably just an eye clouded by cataract but with the oversensitive imagination that comes with being a monomaniac, the normal is swiftly turned into the abnormal. ...read more.


The second most obvious metaphor is the beating heart which is the narrator's most striking hallucination and symbolises a consciousness gone mad. Since Poe was and is widely recognised as one of the greatest and most well known Gothic horror writers of our time it is hardly surprising that 'Tell-Tale Heart' is also of the Gothic horror genre. One of the characteristics which are considered important and essential to creating a 'good' Gothic horror was often missing in his work; the missing element was the classic Germanic Goth background such as mansions, tombs, churches, castles etc... Poe was heavily criticised for this omission, but responded by announcing: 'I maintain that the terror is not of Germany, but of the soul,' Further statements concluded that Poe was of the opinion that by exploring the source of terror, where it originates and functions; in the psyche, reveals far more art and finesse than the average Gothic horror. The basics of the 'Tell-Tale Heart' -the relationship between the innocent victim and the killer- remain very much classic Gothic horror. However the plot of the story is far less superficially complex than the normal Gothic horror, for instance there is no revenge motive to do with family feuds, marriages or otherwise. There are also few characters and the setting is mundane and everyday, containing (as far as we are aware of) no hidden tombs or secret passage-ways. The narrator lives, like most people, in a house of little consequence. This style may not be classic Gothic horror but it is certainly typical of Edgar Allan Poe. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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