The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart book cover
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How does the narrator behave in front of the old man?

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The narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart," who, like most of Poe's narrators, is thoroughly unreliable, claims to have loved the old man. (That would be the old man whom he brutally murdered. Imagine what he'd have done if he'd hated him!)

The old man was always kind to the narrator; he never once did him wrong or insulted him in any way. Yes, he had this weird eye which made the narrator nervous—so nervous, in fact, that it caused him to kill the old man—but other than that, he was a stand-up guy. And because the old man was always so incredibly kind toward him, the narrator never had the slightest desire for his gold.

Once the narrator has resolved to kill the old man—so that he won't have to be spooked by his evil eye ever again—he tries to lull his intended victim into a false sense of security. He does this by acting kindly toward the old man (indeed, more kindly than he's ever acted before) in the week leading up to the murder.

Every night of that week, the narrator creeps into the old man's bedroom but is unable to carry out the deed, as the old man's evil eye remains closed. But this gives the narrator the opportunity to continue lulling the old man into a false sense of security by inquiring how he slept the following morning, giving the impression that the narrator was concerned and wanted to make sure that the old man got a good night's sleep.

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