The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

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

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The narrator in Poe's classic short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" is completely unreliable and is clearly mentally unstable. In the first paragraph of the story, there is a litany of clues that reveal the narrator's unreliability. The narrator uses staccato speech, which is typical of an extremely nervous, paranoid individual. The fact that he is attempting to persuade the reader that he is not mad is also suspicious. Why would a sane individual need to convince someone that they are not crazy? In addition to the narrator's staccato speech and insistence on his sanity, the narrator mentions that he can hear all things in heaven and hell, which is both disturbing and indicative of a mentally unstable person.

The narrator proceeds to contradict himself: he claims that he loved the old man, while simultaneously plotting his murder. The narrator's motivation for...

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Kelvin Brakus eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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