The Time is Ticking Away: An Analysis of “The Tell-Tale Heart” People in society today are no different from those of previous generations in that they have always possessed basic principles of fear, paranoia, and anxiety that have carried on, and are clearly evident throughout history. In the 18th century, Edgar Allen Poe, a major author of the time based one of his more famous works on those basic principles of fear, paranoia, and anxiety. “The Tell-Tale Heart” takes a normal human being that anyone can relate to, and shows just how dark and corrupt the human mind can act under certain everyday circumstances.
Poe reveals the process the human mind goes through when put under stress and the fear of being discovered, the reader is able to relate and put them self in the same position, Culminating with the narrator breaking down, afflicted by the basic principles, showing the reader just what the human mind is capable of doing. Poe starts his story with the narrator talking to himself, justifying that he’s not insane, and that the story he’s about to tell you is completely rational. Much like you and I, the narrator lives a normal life with all the issues of stress and annoyances present.
One annoyance the narrator has to deal with is the eye of the old man he lives with; the eye bothers him so much and slowly eats away at him, until eventually it causes him to take action. The narrator finally can’t take it anymore and stands outside the old mans room door waiting for several days for the perfect time to strike in order to rid his mind of the odious eye. Poe paints an image in our heads as we read this example in the text that the narrator is very meticulous. In order to show this throughout the story, Poe uses several literary devices.
Often within the story, Poe uses a grouping of small sentences that create a rhythm like that of a heartbeat. “Object there was none. Passion there was none. 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. ” In Charles E. Mays article, “The Tell-Tale Heart: Overview,” he explains, To understand the ingenious way Poe develops this story about a split in the self, one must examine the nature of the narrator’s obsession.
He insists that he loves the old man, has no personal animosity toward him, does not want his money, and has not been injured by him. Instead, he says he wishes to kill the old man because of his eye. By showing that the narrator is so precise and over thinks just about everything, Poe unravels how the narrator is insane, but thinks of himself as a rational human being. Poe constantly alludes to a major ideal of the story, which is time. As the narrator becomes close to finally killing the old man and being discovered, time is constantly emphasized and very evident.
At first, the narrator is cool, calm, and collective, but slowly after he has done the deed paranoia kicks in and a sense of false security and the fear of being revealed. Although there is no way to understand this kind of motivation except to declare the narrator mad, the reader must try to determine the method and meaning of the madness. For Poe, there is no such thing as meaningless madness in fiction. As the tension and anxiety pick up in the story, Poe asks us to put ourselves in that situation and feel the pressure and paranoia the narrator is going through due to his actions.
The narrator struggles so much with what he has done and if he is going to be discovered, he hides the body of the old man so meticulously that no one should be able to find it and ever know what has taken place. As the narrators paranoia sets in that is one of the basic principle’s evident in every human being the narrator starts to question himself and whether or not he did a good enough job at hiding the body that he eventually breaks down. “They heard! — they suspected! — they KNEW! — they were making a mockery of my horror! — this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony!
Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! — and now — again — hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER! — “Villains! ” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! — tear up the planks! — here, here! — it is the beating of his hideous heart” (Poe). Within each of us are the basic principles of fear, paranoia, and anxiety, Poe wanted to show us that by giving a prime example of someone just like you or I that you can relate to and witness the effects one goes through under each principle.
Poe might have gained this dark outlook due to all the neglect he had from his family, and all the substance abuse he went through to try and cope with all his problems and step away from reality. He wanted to show exactly what people are capable of and what they do under the affects of fear, anxiety, and paranoia in order to prove that being insane is really a matter of opinion based on personal experiences and events rather than a textbox example. Poe faced his own fear about madness daily throughout his life.
At a very young age he was orphaned, and his foster parents rarely saw him. He was scared of change and rarely did anything that wasn’t second nature to him. Constantly plagued by stressful events in his life such as closely related deaths, Poe lived a very miserable depressing life that eventually attributed to his demise. In almost every piece he produced there is a character that can be related to him and the difficulties he has to go through. Even after Poe’s death his form of writing lives on along with his ideals, which we encounter and relate to on a daily basis.