What is the plot and theme of "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe? Can you relate to the story? Why or why not?

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Can I relate to the story? I consider Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" one of the greatest short stories ever written. Poe creates a mood of mystery and evil foreboding in his tale of murder and madness. The use of the narrator as the killer who tries to convince the reader of his sanity is one of the strong points. The step-by-step descriptive narrative process keeps the reader curious, and the horrific murder followed by the gruesome dismemberment are twists that seem to be perfectly commonplace in the mind of the narrator. The final twist--betraying his own deed to the police because of the still-beating heart--completes the tale of horror that would become Poe's trademark.

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Basically, in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," the unnamed narrator is stricken by some psychological dis-ease that causes him to fixate on an old man.  The narrator claims to suffer from an acute nature of the senses; and as a result, he is horrified by the intensely pale blue eye of the old man.  For a week, the narrator at night goes into the bedroom of the old man and watches him, plotting ways to get ride of the cursed eye.  The narrator kills the old man and buries him under the floor boards inside the house.  A neighbor hears a shriek and calls the police.  When the police arrive and question the narrator, they have no idea that the body is under the floor.  The narrator, however, goes mad and believes that he hears the heart beating under the floor.  He tears up the boards revealing his crime.

A major theme of the story has to do with the nature of guilt.  The narrator believes that the old man is cursed, even though he admits that the man has never wronged him in any way.  Further, the narrator cannot deal with his own guilt at having murdered an innocent man, so he in effect turns himself in to the authorities.

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