The Symbols in the Tell-Tale Heart

??? 01121133 ?? A Professor: ??? Introduction to English Literature and American Literature, Tue 78 Paper1: The Tell-Tale Heart Oct, 23, 2012 The Symbol in “The Tell-Tale Heart” According to the Norton Introduction to Literature, the definition of symbol is that” A symbol in a work of literature compares or puts together two things that are in some ways dissimilar. A symbol in literature usually carries richer and various meanings, as does a flag or religious image. And because of its significance, a symbol usually appears or is hinted at numerous times throughout the work” (Booth 209).

Thus, symbols are used in literature to represent something more than the literal aspect itself. They can come in the form of phrases, colors, objects or events. Through this, the writer can effectively suggest unsaid ideas and meanings to the audience. The use of symbolism serves as clues by the author, to infer something more or a deeper meaning. Therefore, this essay is going to analyze this story by interpret symbols appeared in the story “The Tell Tale Heart. ” In the story, the narrator claims that he is not mad, but his behavior, thought and words tell a different story.

The narrator is determined to kill the old man in the story, not because jealously or animosity but because “one of his eyes resembled that of a vulture- a pale blue eye, with a film over it” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart). The narrator put the subjective feeling on the eye; the narrator said the old man’s eye is an “Evil Eye” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart). An eye is covered by a veil or film; it symbolically means that the narrator has issue with the “inner vision”-what is commonly known as one’s outlook on the world. So our reading of the story is through the eye which is defined by the narrator.

Then, when we read the story, we will be leaded by the narrator’ subjective feeling through what the narrator call an” Evil Eye” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart). So, one of the old man’s eyes symbolizes the narrator’s world of the heart. According to The Tell Tale Heart, “I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously — cautiously (for the hinges creaked) –I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. ” We could know that the lantern in the story can be adjusted to as much or as little as you want, and the narrator keeps most of light hidden; only allowing one ray to escape.

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The narrator said,” 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” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart). The narrator wants to kill the old man because of that eye, so the narrator could only kill the old man when the old man’s eye wide-opened; however, we could know if the old man opens his eye, he will know that the narrator is going to kill him. And, in the story, the narrator keeps emphasizing that what the behaviors are done is so cautious and that the old man won’t find it. So, the ray from the lantern symbolizes the contradiction in the narrator’s heart.

The bedroom is the place where we usually feel safe; most of the time, when we are on the bed, we are usually vulnerable because of a lack of sense of crisis. However, Poe write the bedroom as a dangerous place where might even be killed. It is defined as a burial. The biggest symbol in the story is all the contradictions which symbolize the narrator who is insane. We can see lots of contradiction in this story. First, “It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart).

It is really strange to spend an hour placing one’s head within the door. Second, “I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously — cautiously (for the hinges creaked) –I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. 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” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart). There are two contradict points in above sentence.

One is that everyone should have a consciousness if there is “a single thin ray” fell upon our eyes; much less, the old man have been done like this lasting for eight days. The other one is that the narrator says that killing the old man only happens when that the old man’s vulture-blue eye is open. But if the old man opens his eye, he will know the narrator is going to kill him, also, when someone knows that you are going to be killed, you may scream or make some big noises or even some body reactions. In this way, this event may be found by others.

According to the story, this kind of condition is not a result that the narrator wants. So we can know these things are contradict. Third,” And the old man sprang up in bed, crying out –“Who’s there? ” I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart). Generally speaking, after we say “who’s there? ” we usually go check out what happens or keep sleeping if no one answer us. We won’t sit up in the bed listening for a whole hour.

Fourth, “I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart), and “although he neither saw nor heard” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart). One says the old man heard something, the other one says he didn’t hear or see anything. These two sentences conflict to each other. Fifth,” the sound would be heard by a neighbor” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart), and “it would not be heard through the wall” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart). If the sound would be heard by a neighbor, it would be heard by a neighbor.

If the sound would not be heard through the war, it would not be heard by a neighbor. So, we could know these two sentences conflict to each other. Sixth, “There was nothing to wash out –no stain of any kind –no blood-spot whatever” (Poe, The Tell Tale Heart). The narrator cut off the old man’s head, legs and arms. It is impossible that no blood is on the floor. To sum up, according those contradictions, we could suspect reasonably that the narrator is insane and the narrator doesn’t kill the old man, this whole story is imagined by the narrator.

In conclusion, after reading The Tell-Tale Heart, we can know that this story is not only a horrible story, it also teach us every story might have some significant meanings behind them. Reading is not only to understand the meanings on the surface but also to think deeply and train our ability of analyzing mentally. We should not be afraid of those symbols, and we shouldn’t be frustrated by those symbols; we should try our best to think about what the writers try to tell us truly. Works Cited Booth, Alison and Kelly J. Mays, eds. The Norton Introduction to Literature. 10th ed. New York: Norton, 2010. Edgar Allan Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

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