What is the theme for "The Tell-Tale Heart?"
Two major themes in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” are guilt and madness. The narrator is seemingly unable to cope with his guilt and eventually confesses everything to the police, ruining his “perfect crime.” The narrator’s sanity is also in question. His justifications for killing the old man and his actions throughout the story suggest that the narrator has, in fact, descended into madness.
One of the major themes in “The Tell-Tale Heart” is the effects of guilt or conscience and the descent into madness. In the story, the narrator’s sanity is definitely in question. He kills the old man because of his “evil eye” but then feels guilty about it.
The story depicts a rapid devolving of the narrator’s psyche. At first he is very proud of himself, and considers himself very clever to have gotten away with the murder. When the police arrive, he coolly tells them there is nothing wrong, then leads them into the old man’s room.
In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim. (p. 6)
However, his confidence gets the better of him. While he is in that room, his guilty conscience starts to bother him. He begins to imagine that the old man’s heart is still beating.
But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears… (p. 6)
The ringing in his ears represents his conscience, and his growing mental instability.
It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. (p. 6)
The narrator begins to act more and more erratically, arguing “about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations” (p. 6)
Ultimately, it becomes obvious that the narrator is losing his mind, and it might have been clear to the police all along—why else would they stay and talk about nothing?
(The entire section contains 3 answers and 631 words.)
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The major theme that Edgar Allan Poe highlights in his narrative "The Tell-Tale Heart" is of mental health. Secondary, to this theme he also portrays the themes of depression and guilt as well. The narrator in the story begins with, "true! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? " and constantly repeats throughout the story that he is not a 'madman' but in fact he is very smart. He believes he has planned out the 'perfect crime'. To begin with , the narrators claim that he is not a madman repeatedly points out that he is not in the right state of mind and something is amiss. Moreover, when he moves on to explain that he has planned to murder the oldman and the reason being for it that the mans diseased eye bothered him provides further evidence that he is mentally disturbed. The narrator commits his perfect crime and remarks , "If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body" and goes on to explain how he cut up the the body and hid it underneath the floor boards. He seems very proud of his work which is very highly unlikely to be expected from a sane man.
In fact, he succeeds in convincing the police officers that show up to his door that there was nothing to be worried about and it was a false alarm that their was any trouble at the premises. However, the guilt in him of committing the murder with him not being in his right state of mind, he eventually confesses to his crime. This can be observed when apparently he is delusional of hearing the dead mans heart beat and its sound echo through the floor.