The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

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What does the narrator fear in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

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The narrator in this story is, by his own very early admission, "dreadfully nervous." He argues that he is not mad, but he is quite clearly mentally unstable. He does not understand why he suddenly felt so "haunted" by the eye of the old man whom he had previously loved. He decides he is going to kill the man because he is inexplicably so afraid of his eye.

When it comes time to commit the murder he has planned, the narrator is then afraid of waking him while he sleeps. To prevent this possibility, he opens the door very carefully and puts a light into the room for more than one night. He also states that he hears a "groan of mortal terror" arising from the old man in his bed, and that this is a familiar sound to him because it is a sound he has himself made in the middle of the night when he is distracted by "terrors." The narrator does not specify what these terrors are, but they potentially pertain to death or simply existential angst.

After he has killed the old man and the police...

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