In "The Tell-Tale Heart," what is your explanation for the "heartbeat" noise that drives the narrator to confess?

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I love the idea that one of the previous posts suggested referring to the "death watch beetles" that may have been mating in the walls of the house, thus making the ticking sound. (The poster was incorrect about the narrator mentioning this possibility in the story, however.)

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I love the idea that one of the previous posts suggested referring to the "death watch beetles" that may have been mating in the walls of the house, thus making the ticking sound. (The poster was incorrect about the narrator mentioning this possibility in the story, however.)

The real question is whether the narrator actually hears a sound at all, or whether he simply imagines it. The fact that it is "such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton" suggests the possibility of a watch or clock. However, none is mentioned in the story (unlike the magnified ticking of the watch heard by the doomed man in Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.") Since the police officers hear no sound, it can only be assumed that it is the guilty conscience of the madman. Only one other possibility exists: Having already admitted that he has a

... sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell...

it could be that the narrator's ears are indeed attuned to the underworld, where the time for his arrival is slowly ticking away.

 

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