illustration of a human heart lying on black floorboards

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe
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Analyze the following lines from "The Tell-Tale Heart": "My easy, quiet manner made the policemen believe my story. So they sat talking with me in a friendly way. But although I answered them in the same way, I soon wished that they would go."

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The above-mentioned passage comes from Poe's short story "Tell-Tale Heart" after the unreliable narrator has killed "the old man," dismembered him, and secured the body underneath the floorboards in the house. A neighbor hears a scream and calls the police to investigate. The narrator not only invites the policemen into...

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The above-mentioned passage comes from Poe's short story "Tell-Tale Heart" after the unreliable narrator has killed "the old man," dismembered him, and secured the body underneath the floorboards in the house. A neighbor hears a scream and calls the police to investigate. The narrator not only invites the policemen into the house, but takes them into the room where the body is stored. In fact, the narrator places his own chair above the body in a very arrogant, but deceitful manner.

Now if the narrator/killer would have just remained calm and carried out an innocent act, the policemen would have gone away and he could have gotten away with the murder. However, Poe exemplifies through the narrator what it must feel and look like to suffer from guilt, paranoia, and anxiety. For instance, the above-referenced passage comes right before the narrator's mind plays tricks on him again and he thinks he hears the beating of the old man's heart. This beating of the heart, coupled with the old man's "eye of a vulture," are both triggers that make this killer freak out. The fact that the killer says "I soon wished they would go" suggests that his triggers are ready to fire away.

And that's exactly what happens next. The narrator/killer gets so triggered that he not only believes that he hears the old man's heart beating again, but he believes that the policemen hear it too and are just pretending not to notice. This drives him nuts, and he pulls up the planks and confesses to the murder.

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