The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart book cover
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In the story "The Tell-Tale Heart," is Poe's narrator reliable or unreliabler? And what evidence from the story proves your point?

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clairewait eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Anytime a story is told in 1st person point-of-view, it should be read with a skepticism that the narrator is unreliable.  This is even more true in any of Edgar Allan Poe's literature.  One reason why Poe was so successful in the horror genre (why he is credited as the American "grandfather" of horror) is his ability to create such psychologically twisted characters that there is always the possibility that reality is blurred through some sort of mental disorder.

The narrator's actions throughout the story resemble those of a guilty person, but the evidence that seems to most clearly point to his unreliability is how often he repeats that he is sane.  People in their right minds do not tend to question their own sanity, nor believe anyone else is.  This narrator speaks and acts through a clear tone of paranoia, which only emphasizes that he is an unrealiable narrator.

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