The tell-tale heart:

“His eye was like the eye of a vulture, the eye of one of those terrible birds that watch and wait while an animal dies, and then fall upon the dead body and pull it to pieces to eat it.”

The tell-tale heart, written by Edgar Allan Poe. Edgar portrays the gothic protagonist features known as driven by passion or strong emotions rather than logic or reason, Contrasting qualities, foreshadowed by something negative, generally secretive, has an air of mystery and has a need to know through an unknown character who continues to question why we think he is mad as he tries to convince us that killing an old man for no real reason other than his ‘evil eye’ is not something that a madman would do.

I think Edgar Allan Poe wrote this short story to show just how guilt can take over. Wanting to make people aware that it is not how perfect your plan to get away with it is, but how you will deal with the guilt. The story shows that you’re conscious usually can’t take the guilt and gives in. Right at the end of the story, he had believed that he had gotten away with murder with his “perfect plan” but suddenly his conscious takes over, filling his head with imagination, making him confess to everything he has just done.

As there are many qualities to a gothic protagonist, I fell that there are three main ones that are relevant to the narrator of the Tell-Tale Heart, these being Driven by passion or strong emotions rather than logic or reason, Contrasting qualities and generally secretive.

As we know the narrator has an obsession with the old man’s eye as the ‘evil eye’ is talked about over and over again throughout the story. They tell us that the eye is the main reason for killing the old man, they had nothing at all against the man even mentioning that they may have even loved him, but the man’s eye was something that they could not just let go. “Then, carefully, I lifted the cloth, just a little, so that a single, thin, small light fell across that eye. For seven nights I did this, seven long nights, every night at midnight. Always the eye was closed, so it was impossible for me to do the work.” For it was not the old man I felt I had to kill; it was the eye, his Evil Eye.” For 7 long nights, they watched over, not the man but the mans eye. They felt that the eye was only ever interesting to them if it was open, as it was closed, they felt nothing towards it, not hatred and he wasn’t afraid of it and so that is why they decided to just sit there and watch it. I believe that this shows that he had a strong passion for his eye, his actions were not driven by logic or reason but by his strong feelings towards the old man’s evil eye. I feel like he did this because he needed to know more about the eye and why it drove him to want to kill the man. I think that also he was waiting until the perfect time to strick, and after seeing the eye closed he realised that he now didn’t feel the emotions he did when the eye was open, and only then was his decision made that the time was only right when his emotions were high and I believe he only discovered then that the eye must be open for him to do his work.

“So you think that I am mad? A madman cannot plan. But you should have seen me. During all of that week I was as friendly to the old man as I could be, and warm, and loving.” The narrator tells us that he is friendly to the old man, warm and loving but also wants to kill the old man at the same time. These are contracting qualities, you can not love someone but also want to kill him. The narrator was confusing like this, I thought I would be able to tell its every move but instead, I ended up confused about what had just happened. “A madman cannot plan” is what they believed, they were trying to prove to us that they are sane. By making a plan and then carefully cutting the body up, making sure not a speck of blood was dropped on the ground and hiding it where no one would think to look is mindful but we also have to remember that there was no real reason for killing the old man which is thoughtless of the narrator, showing contrasting qualities, how can you be mindful yet thoughtless? I believ that the olds man reason was purely trying to convince us that he is sane, when he may well know that he is not. I think that they need us to believe that they are sane for them to then go along with. they need us to believe in them so that they can believe in themselves.

A gothic protagonist is usually secretive and in The Tell-Tale Heart, our protagonist is very very secretive. For starters, We don’t find out the gender of this charter as everything in the story is addressed in the first person, no he’s or shes. We also do not know the name or background of this mysterious charter. Throughout the short story, the narrator is always asking us questions about why we think that he has lost his mind, these are repeated over and over again, giving us an indication that something has happened in the past to make his aware that there is a problem. Over and over we are told by this person that their mind is healthy and in control, but the thing is why would we question his sanity. The only reason we do is that of these repetitive questions. We would be able to solve this but we know nothing about their past, nothing is mentioned about what may have happened to them in the past it is all kept very secretive. I think that they do not want us to know if they don’t tell us anything we can not assume, as in the world around us, we jump to conclusions about everything that is revealed about a person. We are all to quick to judge, I think it is smart to be secretive, what can we judge if we know nothing about them?

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe has now made me think how people who could do such a thing as murder can deal with their conscious and if they ever regret what they have done because if how much guilt they feel and how much pain it must cause them if any at all. Reading this short story raises many questions but I now believe that committing the crime is not the hardest part, it is, in fact, hiding it and controlling your conscious from letting guilt take over. I mean I feel guilting from telling a little lie, I just can’t imagine trying to hold back the guilt of murder. I have learned that extreme measures of guilt can make you start to imagine things that aren’t there, The narrator believes that the police could also hear the dead man’s heartbeat beneath when we all know that this is impossible. What was the point of murdering the man for no real reason? “I was suffering more than I could bear, from their smiles, and from that sound. Louder, louder, louder! Suddenly I could bear it no longer. I pointed at the boards and cried, “Yes! Yes, I killed him.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Hi Jessica,

    Thank you for getting your response in on time to receive feedback!

    You have some clearly defined ideas here and have identified some strong characteristics of a gothic protagonist.

    I would like to see you develop your personal response past one sentence statements or questions and look to include more analysis of how the author develops the gothic protagonist characteristics. Ensure your evidence is relevant and fully explained.

    Mrs. P


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