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Why is the word WILL capitalized in the following line from "The Tell-Tale Heart," and...

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hkwon36047 | Honors

Posted June 26, 2012 at 4:12 AM via web

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Why is the word WILL capitalized in the following line from "The Tell-Tale Heart," and how would this question be rephrased in intelligible modern American language?  

"TRUE! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad?"

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tmcquade | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted June 26, 2012 at 5:26 AM (Answer #1)

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In more modern American language, the narrator is basically asking his audience: "Why do you insist on saying I'm crazy?"

Edgar Allen Poe capitalizes the word WILL in this line because he wants to emphasize the narrator's anticipation of his audience's reaction.  The narrator assumes his hearers will believe him to be "mad" because of what he is about to tell them - and he wants to urge them not to believe this, but to instead to see just how sane he truly is.

The narraator, with his opening words, admits to being "very dreadfully nervous," but he insists he is not mad.  He argues:

The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.

This is supposed to explain for the audience why he is able to hear something so quiet as the old man's heartbeat - which later he says he could hear, and which prompted him to finally commit his dastardly act of murdering the old man amd ultimately of confessing his crime.

The narrator recognizes that his decision to kill the old man because of his "evil eye" might lead his audience to think him crazy, but as proof of his sanity, he offers his carefulness and caution:

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded -- with what caution -- with what foresight, with what dissimulation, I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him.

He then goes on to outline the careful steps he took leading up to the murder, as well as the precision with which he carried out the murder and the precautions he took in the moments thereafter:

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body.... I took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly so cunningly, that no human eye -- not even his -- could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash out -- no stain of any kind -- no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that.

The fact that the narrator thinks these "proofs" will cause the audience to believe him sane shows just how "mad" he really is.

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