The Tell-Tale Heart Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

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What is the narrator's reliability in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

The narrator in "The Tell-Tale Heart" is not reliable due to his mental illness and skewed perception of reality.

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The narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" is certainly unreliable and mentally deranged. The narrator's unreliably is evident from the start of the story, when he admits that he suffers from a disease that sharpens his senses to the extent that he has supernatural hearing.

The narrator also insists that he is sane, which is a bold claim to make after admitting that he can hear all things in heaven, in hell, and on earth. The syntax of the narration and the hysterical tone in which the narrator tells the story are other red flags and more evidence that he is unreliable. A reliable, rational narrator would have no need to address his sanity or speak in an agitated tone.

The narrator's reasoning for committing the atrocious crime is also questionable and contributes to his unreliability. Although the narrator says that he loves the old man, he claims that the old man's Evil Eye drove him to murder. A mentally stable, rational person would not kill a vulnerable old man over a pale blue eye. The...

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