What types of conflict are involved in Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart"?  

Expert Answers
kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are lots of types of conflict in "The Tell-Tale Heart." Firstly, in the opening of the story, there is an example of man versus self. This is shown when the narrator says that he was "haunted day and night" by the idea of killing the old man. Despite loving the old man, this idea plagues him until he finally relents and decides to commit the murder.

Secondly, there is a man versus man conflict. This takes place between the narrator and the old man and is caused by the latter's "Evil Eye," which the narrator believes is always watching him.  

In addition, there is also a man versus society conflict. We see this clearly when the police come to the house after a neighbor reports hearing a "shriek." The narrator's lies form the basis of this conflict: the narrator has no intention of confessing to the murder and lets the police search the house, safe in the knowledge that they will never find the body because it is hidden under the floorboards.  

The story closes with a final example of man versus self. Plagued by the noise of a beating heart, the narrator rips up the floorboards to reveal the evidence of his crime.

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Poe shows the conflict between the narrator's concept of reality and reality itself. He also creates a conflict between the reader and the narrator. 

The narrator wants to establish his sanity, which suggests that he has been accused of insanity. As he tells his story, however, it becomes increasingly obvious that he is living in his own reality, one separate from that of other people. He probably is insane. For example, he feels he has to murder the old man because the man has an "Evil Eye." He also wants to silence the man's heartbeat, which he believes he can hear. Later, the narrator apparently hallucinates hearing the pounding heart of the murdered man who he has buried under the floorboards. The narrator's persistent belief in a different reality drives the plot. In reality, the old man appears to have been harmless, not evil. We wonder why the narrator is so in conflict with reality. 

Poe also creates a conflict between the narrator's desire to build sympathy for himself and the unsympathetic acts he describes engaging in, such as murder. His attempt to persuade us he is sane conflicts with his irrational and unbalanced behavior.

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart", more than one type of conflict is visible.  The conflict between the narrator and the old man illustrates the person vs person type of conflict. The narrator is determined to kill the old man because of his eye. It is also illustrated in a way between the narrator and the reader when the narrator asks, "but why will you say that I am mad?"  Person vs self is best seen in the torment the narrator goes through when the police arrive as to whether anyone else can hear the beating of the heart. He debates with himself about what to do, finally giving in and confessing.  Person vs society is illustrated between the narrator and the officers of the law because the narrator knows that he will be arrested if the heart is found.  Each of these conflicts is clearly found in the story.

fireman123 | Student

The types of conflict that are present in Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Tell-Tale Heart" are person vs. self and person vs. person. The protagonist, a care taker of an old man is annoyed and dsitrubed by the eye of the old man. He claims that the eye is possessed by evil, calling it the "Evil Eye". He leads out a plan to go and kill the man. The person vs. self, is the protagonist vs. himself. His own conscious is the sound of the heartbeat. He is hearing the guiltiness.

Read the study guide:
The Tell-Tale Heart

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question