The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

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What is the external and internal conflict in the "Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe?

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The narrator has an internal conflict of which he seems consciously unaware.  He believes that his conflict is with the old man's "vulture" eye, for he says that he has no other motive to kill him.  He believes that it is the old man's heart that he hears, making a "low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton."  Even he, however, cannot provide us with an actual reason for murdering the old man other than that he must rid himself of the man's eye.  But why?  We get a few clues...

First, he describes the old man's eye as being like a vulture's.  Vultures are scavengers that feed on the carcasses of dead animals; therefore, they are often associated with death.  Next, he describes the eye has possessing a "film over it"; this sounds like cataracts, an ailment associated with the elderly.  Finally, the man is, as the narrator says multiple times, "old."  It seems that the narrator has identified several ways in which his victim might remind him of the fact that we all age and, more importantly, that we all die.  On the night he eventually kills the old man, he says that he hears the man make a "groan of mortal terror," and that he "knew the sound well" because on many nights, "it has welled up from [his] own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted [him]."  It seems, then, that what the narrator really fears is his own death, and the old man is a painful reminder of it.

It is not the old man's heart that he hears, sounding like a watch.  It is his own.  We realize this, though the narrator does not, because he hears it again after the old man is already dead and dismembered.  He hears "a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in...

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