In "The Tell-Tale Heart" how does the first paragraph prepare the readers for the conflict in the second paragraph?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first paragraph, he refers to madness.  Right off the bat he defends himself against an unheard accusation of madness.  We haven't accused him of being mad, but after we read his reason in paragraph 2, we just might.  So, he jumps the gun stating, "why will you say that I am mad?...How, then, am I mad?"  Already, we are intrigued, and wondering why he is ranting about being mad.  He has obviously done something for which he feared we would accuse him of madness, and felt the need to defend himself by telling his tale.  He claims that he isn't mad at all, because if he were, he wouldn't be able to "healthily...calmly...tell you the whole story."

Now we are prepared to hear the 2nd paragraph.  In it he talks about the fact that he made up his "mind to take the life of the old man."  Before this, he said there was no provocation excepting the old man's " eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it".  We certainly would think he is mad if that is the only motive for murder that he gave.  So, the first paragraph preempts our assumption of him being mad.  He predicts we would think that, and to reject that idea, he mentions it.

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The Tell-Tale Heart

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