In Poe's celebrated short story "The Tell-Tale Heart ," the unnamed narrator attempts to convince the audience of his sanity as he elaborates on his brutal crime. In the first paragraph of the story, the narrator comes across as manic when he shouts, repeats himself several times, speaks in...
fragmented sentences, and attempts to describe his supernatural sense of hearing. The narrator is also determined to prove his sanity, which contributes to his defensive, agitated tone. He believes that his audience is doubting him, and he is determined to prove them wrong. The narrator ends the first paragraph by stating that he will prove his sanity by calmly telling the story of how he murdered the old man. The narrator's claim is ironic, because he is anything but composed.
As the story develops, the narrator continues to speak in an anxious, uneasy tone, which highlights his mental instability and contributes to the unsettling mood of the narrative. The short, abrupt sentences reveal the narrator's troubled mindset, and the ominous diction emphasizes his insanity. The audience associates words like "madness," "haunted," "evil," and "darkness" with the narrator's disturbed psyche and finds the description of his crime particularly unsettling. Throughout the story, the narrator continually attempts to persuade the reader that he is a rational, sane person, which also creates a desperate, pleading tone. Towards the end of the story, the narrator elaborates on his interaction with the police officers in a frantic tone by saying,
Oh God! what could I do? I foamed—I raved—I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder—louder—louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!—no, no! They heard!—they suspected!—they knew!—they were making a mockery of my horror!—this I thought, and this I think. (Poe, 8)
Overall, the unreliable narrator of Poe's classic short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" utilizes a defensive, agitated tone and gives the impression that he is a desperate, mentally insane individual.