The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In "The Tell-Tale Heart," what prevents the narrator from killing the old man during one of the first seven nights?

Expert Answers info

Colin Cavendish-Jones, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Professor, Lawyer

bookM.A. from Oxford University

bookPh.D. from St. Andrews University


calendarEducator since 2019

write1,256 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" tells us what prevented him from killing the old man on one of the first seven nights. He says,

I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye.

The reader might object to the logic of this. If he requires the eye to be open in order to kill the old man, why not attack in daylight? The advantage of attacking during the night is surely that one would be killing a sleeping man, or at least one who was unaware that the attack was coming. This advantage is already lost if he insists on the eye being open.

Perhaps the narrator thought he would be able to kill the old man on the first seven nights but was unable to screw his courage, or his malice, to the sticking place. Perhaps he regarded the first seven occasions partly as practice runs. Perhaps he would have crept into the old man's chamber a hundred or a thousand times without incident if the old man had remained soundly...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 714 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write6,712 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

chelseaosborne314 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write182 answers

starTop subjects are Literature and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial