The tell-tale heart, Edgar Allan Poe, gothic fiction genre, Clarke, judge, detective, psychologist, mysterious short story
Edgar Allan Poe is a 19th century American romantic writer best known for his dark and mysterious short stories. 'The Tell-Tale Heart', published in 1843, is one of the most famous ones. It is about a murderous narrator trying to convince the reader of his own sanity by explaining and describing the crime he committed.
[...] The narrator's worse mania is his denial. His entire confession is based on justifying that what he did is not an evidence of his madness. He first considers his hypersensitivity as a proof of the contrary. He then distances himself from the ‘idea' that caused his crime. Saying it ‘entered' his brain suggests that it came from an external source rather than an internal desire. He finally founds his healthy mind on his planning and organization. But by defining his actions, especially the cutting as clean and careful, he appears to the reader as even more insane. [...]
[...] Edgar Allan Poe is very meticulous with the syntax of the ‘Tell-Tale Heart'. Besides having a deep and complex character and story, the power of this tale resides in its construction. We are drawn into the mind of a madman and share his anxiety thanks to the style of the sentences. The vagueness adopted both in identities and circumstances is another way of making the narrator's state of mind understandable to the reader. Thanks to that the tale keeps on bringing questions and mystery until our days. [...]
[...] But the obsession and non-culpability of the narrator shape his horrific actions into fear in the reader's mind. Gothic Fiction being quite a large genre, several categories can be distinguished. Therefore, we can say that the tale we are studying falls into the ambiguous category. Indeed, multiple interpretations can be established because, in addition to being about a murder, it is about mental illness viewed from a mentally ill narrator. The narrator is unnamed and non-gendered though we naturally think of a ‘he' and the pictures show a male character. [...]
[...] As a matter of fact, the narrator only gives details on his perception and emphasizes how planned and cleaned the crime was as this is to him a proof of his sanity. The reader of ‘The Tell-Tale Heart' is unwillingly part of the story due to the first-person narration. On the one hand, through questioning and accusation of misjudgment, the narrator includes the reader as a protagonist of the tale: judge, detective, psychologist On the other hand, this way of telling the story allows the reader to identify with the narrator as the 'I' could be anyone and the narrator could be talking to himself. [...]
[...] This suggests that what drove the narrator to kill the old man could as well be his fear of death. To show that madness, Harry Clarke pictured the narrator in both illustrations with a long and distorted figure surrounded by thick darkness. In the text, the narrator compares himself to his conception of Death, a silhouette that quietly stalk and kills. Clarke transposed that especially in the second picture where the narrator is agilely on his tippy toes. Besides being obsessive, the narrator suffers from anxiety and schizophrenia. [...]
using our reader.