What are some quotes regarding the narrator's sanity and guilt and the effect of those quotes in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?
The narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" is continually accusing us of thinking him mad. This, indeed, is how he opens the story.
True—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?
If, upon first meeting someone, the first words out of his mouth were a denial of madness or an accusation that you regard him as mad, you might regard yourself as justified in having doubts about his sanity. In the case of this narrator, the insistence with which he repeats his denials have a cumulative effect, building up our unease and suspicion. He denies that he is mad or accuses us of thinking so six times in a very brief story. At one point he says:
It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this?
Here, an unbelievable assertion that he took an hour to put his head through the door is followed up with a question about whether a madman would done this thing which the reader probably does not believe he did.
Both insanity and guilt are suggested by the insistent assertions that the narrator loved the old man and would not have harmed him if he had not disliked one of his eyes. He protests:
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire.
It does not seem to occur to the narrator that a detailed description of how you have killed a person you had no good reason to kill, coupled with an admission that you had no good reason to kill him, does not inspire confidence in the speaker's honesty or his sanity. The feverish tone of his narration throughout the story also adds to an oppressive sense of guilt and madness.
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