The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is a summary of The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe?

Expert Answers info

Walter Fischer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2013

write4,026 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

The Tell-Tale Heart was published in 1843 and represents the quintessential Edgar Allen Poe short story.  It is told by a narrator of questionable sanity – he begins his tale with a rejection of any notion that he is less than sane while proceeding to contradict his own assertions (“TRUE!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them.”) – who has grown increasingly anxious by the sight of the old man with whom he shares a home.  He does not dislike the old man; on the contrary, he professes to actually hold very positive feelings toward him (“I loved the old man. He had never wronged me”).  One of the old man’s eyes, however, is sufficiently disturbing as to slowly eat away at the narrator’s mental well-being:  “One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold . . .”  Unable to bear the sight of that eye any longer, the narrator plots to murder the old man in his sleep.  Having done so following a week of peeking into the old man’s bedroom in the middle night to observe his sleep, the narrator dismembers the corpse and conceals it beneath the floor boards.  Neighbors, however, heard the old man’s cry of terror while he was being murdered and summoned the police, who show up and proceed to question the narrator.  While attempting to act as calmly as possible so as not to give the police cause to investigate further, the narrator believes he can hear the beating of the old man’s heart from beneath the floor.  As the beating grows louder, the narrator becomes increasingly unhinged until, convinced that the police can also hear this sound that actually emanates solely from within his head, he finally cries out: “Villains! . . .dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks!—here, here!—it is the beating of his hideous heart!”  The narrator’s guilty conscience has given him away.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

rachellopez | Student

The story starts with the narrator, who states that he as a mental disease where his sense become much stronger. He goes on to tell the story of a man that he cared for (I guess he was his caretaker) and how this mans eye, which was pale blue and film-covered eye, drove him mad. He called it the "evil eye" and it drove him to the point where he had to kill them man. After killing him, the narrator thought the heart was still beating, so he put it in the floor boards to cover up the murder. The cops came, days later, and the heart beat seemed to be getting louder. The narrator became hysterical and ripped up the floor boards, revealing the beating heart.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial