illustration of a human heart lying on black floorboards

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe

Start Free Trial

What can be a good thesis statement for "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

Expert Answers

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

The main purpose of a thesis statement is to set out one's argument right at the very beginning of an essay, dissertation, or research paper. To that end, it must give the reader some idea of what to expect by accurately summarizing the contents of the work to follow. The precise thesis statement will, of course, depend on the work involved, but whatever the subject, it's generally considered a good idea to write a powerful statement that will grab the reader's attention.

In the case of "The Tell-Tale Heart," such a thesis could be as follows:

"Like much of Poe's fiction, 'The Tell-Tale Heart' is told by an unreliable narrator. This forces the reader to draw their own conclusion about the truthfulness of the narrator instead of taking the narrator's words at face value, as readers often do in fiction."

The main strength of this thesis statement is that it allows you to explore this particular work in depth—especially in relation to the unreliability of the narrator—as well as relate it to Poe's other works and to fiction in general. Such a broad scope allows you to draw on many different secondary sources in writing your dissertation, thus giving it much greater depth and originality.

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

A thesis statement is a road map of an argumentative essay, and it introduces the topic at hand, which the writer will address for the remainder of the paper. A good thesis statement is not a generalized observation and should make a claim that others could dispute. A thesis statement should also be included in the introductory paragraph, and the writer should proceed to address and answer the claim they make at the start of the paper. In regards to Poe's celebrated short story "The Tell-Tale Heart," one could create a thesis statement concerning Poe's representation of madness, the effect guilt can have on an individual, or Poe's writing techniques. The following is an example of a good thesis statement regarding "The Tell-Tale Heart":

Poe's use of syntax, diction, repetition, and style illustrates the narrator's insanity and characterizes him as a mentally unstable individual.

Using this thesis statement, one can explore and elaborate on the various writing techniques Poe utilizes throughout his classic short story which contribute to the theme of insanity and madness. The narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" is one of literature's most celebrated unreliable narrators, and Poe's brilliance as a writer is expressed throughout this short story. In the first paragraph alone, the audience can sense the narrator's insanity through Poe's staccato sentence structure, the narrator's insistence on being sane, and Poe’s word choice. As the story progresses, Poe continues to explore the nature of madness and utilizes various literary techniques to underscore certain themes.

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

A thesis statement is a sentence in which the writer states the main idea or central point contained in his paper and his position on it. The arguments presented in his writing should then reflect and support his point of view. This means that the thesis statement should be focused and specific. It cannot just be a sweeping, generalised observation.

Since  the content of a paper is determined by a thesis statement, it should preferably be included in the introductory paragraph. In considering the above, a good thesis statement to consider for Poe's short story would be something along the following lines:

Edgar Allan Poe's gothic horror story, The Tell-Tale heart, illustrates how obsession can turn into madness and lead to the destruction of its victim and others.

Such a thesis statement allows the writer to explore the obsession that the narrator has with the old man's 'evil eye' and the descriptions he gives it to emphasize its effect on him. The writer can then delve into how this obsession affects the narrator's thinking and his behaviour - which both display an abnormality. Finally, the writer can present detail as to how these drive the narrator to commit a desperate, fatal act and his responses later when he is so overwhelmed by what he believes he hears that he confesses to his malicious deed.

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

In order for you to come up with a thesis statement, you need to first have a topic of discussion. A thesis statement is meant to concisely summarize what you intend to talk about in your paper, so you definitely need to know what you want to talk about. There are many things in The Tell-Tale Heart that can be discussed for a paper, but I will just use one as an example: one of the themes of the story. This story is a very good example of the saying "Pride comes before the fall", so I will create a thesis statement about that:

In The Tell-Tale Heart, the narrator kills the old man living with him, but he does not get away with it because of his own pride. The police come to his home to investigate, and they never would have found anything had he not decided to take them into the room in which he had hidden the body to sit for a while and converse. Because of this act of pride, his guilt eventually overcame him, and he ended up confessing to the crime.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team