From what point of view is "The Tell-Tale Heart" told?

Asked on by mielann24

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" was written in first person.

A first person point of view (or narration) is told from the speaker's point of view, is about the life of the speaker, and uses the pronouns "I", "my", and "me."

On a side note, second person point of views are relatively difficult to master given they tell the reader's story (using the pronouns "you" and "yours" and can alienate the reader if the story does not or could not apply to him or her). Third person point of views are where the narrator is telling the story of another character/s (using the pronouns he/she, his/ her, they/them).

That said, the opening lines of the story denote it as being from a first person point of view.

TRUE!—NERVOUS—VERY, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them.

Here, the speaker uses the pronouns "I" and "my." Through this use of pronouns, the point of view is defined as first person. Curiously enough, the speaker is telling "you" the reader about the circumstances regarding him, the old man, and the old man's eye. This defines the first person point of view even more (one can almost picture the speaker sitting in front of them telling of the horrific tale).

gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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As was mentioned in the previous post, Poe utilizes first-person narration throughout his short story "The Tell-Tale Heart." The reader can tell that the story is being told from the narrator's point of view by the use of the personal pronouns "I" and "my." This short story is not told using third-person narration because Poe does not describe the protagonist as "he" or "she." The first-person narrator also speaks directly to the reader by referring to the audience as "you." In this excerpt from the short story, one can tell that Poe utilizes first-person narration by the use of the personal pronoun "I." Poe writes,

You may think I became afraid. But no. The darkness in his room was thick and black. I knew he could not see the opening of the door. I continued to push the door, slowly, softly. I put in my head. I put in my hand, with the covered light (2).

The paranoid, mentally ill narrator is also unreliable throughout the short story. Interestingly, Poe offers no physical description of the narrator.


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