illustration of a human heart lying on black floorboards

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe

Start Free Trial

How does the narrator feel immediately after he commits the murder in The Tell-Tale Heart? Do his feelings change? If so, how and why?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

After planing the seemingly-perfect murder, the author executes his plan, murders the old man, and disposes of the body. We realize that he had no particular feelings of any kind toward the victim; he didn't hate the old man, nor did he like him. He is completely neutral and killed him with no particular reason.

After that, however, instead of feeling some sort of twisted, morbid fulfillment, he feels immense guilt and regret. He tries to calm down, but he fails, and he begins to hear a faint thumping sound in the distance. Confused and a bit paranoid, the murderer begins to think that the faint rhythmic sound he hears is, in fact, the old man's heartbeat. He panics and confesses to his crimes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does the narrator feel after committing the crime in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

The narrator does claim to have loved the old man. So, it would be logical for him to be remorseful after killing him. But the narrator is mad (crazy). He claims that his alleged madness is simply an overly acute attention to sensations and detail. Just before killing him, the narrator senses the old man's terror and expresses pity but also light amusement: 

I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. 

When the narrator begins to kill the old man by dragging him to the floor and smothering him, he (narrator) "smiled gaily" to know that he was going through with killing the old man. After the old man is dead, the narrator was not really remorseful nor was he smiling or amused. He is momentarily relieved that he no longer has to feel the gaze of the old man's eye; then he goes into an anxious mode. He dismembers the body in order to hide it. He again notes that this is precaution, not madness. He brags about his precision in hiding the body. 

When the police arrive, the narrator smiles to hide his guilt. After feeling that he convinced them of his innocence, the narrator feels relieved, "I was singularly at ease." However, his conscience gets to him and that momentary relief once again changes into precaution to anxiety to terror when the sound of the heartbeat increases.

So, after killing the old man, the narrator feels momentarily relieved, then anxious, momentarily relieved again, then anxious again and finally leading to complete terror resulting in his confession. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on