What is "The Tell-Tale Heart" about? Can most people relate to the story? Why or why not?

Expert Answers
teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Basically, "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe is about an unnamed man (the narrator) who is driven mad by an old man's eye.  The man feels compelled to get rid of the eye, so he murders the old man.  He buries the old man underneath the floorboards of his house.  Shortly afterwards, a team of police officers comes to the house to investigate a reported scream.  The man is crazed (a metaphor for his guilt) and thinks that he can hear the old man's heart beating from under the floor.  He rips open the floor, revealing his crime.

I have not heard any readers say that they necessarily relate to the story; however, readers of various ages tend to be engaged by the story because the suspense created by Poe's narrative technique is incredibly alluring.  The reader definitely feels like he/she is on "the edge of his/her seat" waiting to see just how far the narrator's madness is going to push him.

kalick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think there are many different levels at which someone could "relate" to a story.  No, not many people have killed a man and buried him beneath their floorboards.  However, you would not have to look far to find someone who has been plagued by guilt.  Of course, this guilt is taken to the extreme in Poe's short story but that is one of the joys of literature.  We can read a story that exaggerates a situation, yet still gain something "real" from the reading.  The exaggeration teaches a lesson and allows us, the readers, to learn from an experience without actually having to go through it ourselves.

So maybe we have never been in Poe's protagonist's position exactly, but most of us have been passionate, guilt-ridden, terrified about something.

Read the study guide:
The Tell-Tale Heart

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question