Exposition:when we meet the characters: the narrator, who repeatedly insists on his sanity, and the old man, whose pale, blue eye so disturbs the narrator.
Rising Action:all of the 7 nights that the narrator is obsessing over the old man's open eye and plotting to kill him.
Climax: when the narrator kills the old man.
Falling Action:when the narrator hears the old man's heart beating from beneath the floor boards.
Exposition is the part of the story that sets up the rest of the story. It usually introduces us to the characters and settings of the story to follow. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," we meet the narrator and the old man, and we see that the setting is the apartment of the narrator. We also see that the narrator insists that he is not insane, but we can tell from the beginning that he is not sane at all. He tells us that he is not insane, and then tells us he loved the old man and didn't want to kill him.
The rising action of the story occurs when there is some kind of obstacle standing in the way of the outcome of the story. Here the rising action occurs when the narrator goes into the old man's room for seven nights. He wants to kill the man, because he thinks his blue hazy eye can see the inside of the narrator. Each night when he goes to kill the man, the man's eye is open, making the narrator think the old man is watching him.
The climax of a story is usually the most intense part of the story. Here the climax occurs when the narrator kills the old man. He thinks that once he has killed him the old man will not be able to see him anymore.
The falling action of a story comes right after the climax. The falling action ties everything up and ends the story. Here the falling action occurs when the narrator "hears" the old man's heart beating, although he has just killed him. The police are talking to the narrator, and he hears the beating of the dead man's heart getting louder and louder. The narrator finally admits to what he has done and tells the police to tear up the floorboards to find the "beating heart."
Exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action and dénouement are all terms used to describe plot structure. They outline the rise and fall of the action in a story. Exposition sets up the story and the characters. The inciting incident is the event that starts the action or the conflict of the story. The events that follow the inciting incident that build the action are part of the rising action. The climax is that moment when the action is at its highest point or when the conflict is about to be solved. Falling action resolves the plot points that are still left open and the dénouement ends the story.
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe follows traditional plot structure. The exposition sets up the relationship between the narrator and the old man. The inciting incident is the narrator’s decision to murder the old man. This decision starts the action of the story. The narrator’s attempts to kill the old man, choosing not to and trying again are all part of the rising action. The climax is the murder of the old man. The police arriving, the narrator lying about what happened and then hearing the heartbeat are all part of the falling action. The dénouement is his final declaration of guilt that ends the story.