The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

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Why does the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe say, "But why do you say that I am a mad man?"

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Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" is told by a first-person narrator, and the line to which you refer is found in the first paragraph, though your quote, as written in your question, is not quite correct. The narrator talks directly to us, and he begins his story this way:

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. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily--how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

This reference to madness comes as the answer to an unasked question, or perhaps the response to an unspoken remark. The narrator in some way anticipates that his listeners (readers) might possibly think he is mad (crazy); however, before we can say it, he tells us we we would be wrong to make that assumption. It is the first of at least four such statements, statements in which the speaker dismisses the idea that he could possibly be mad.

The next reference to his non-existent (according to him) madness happens several paragraphs into the narrative. The speaker says:

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. 

The narrator is admitting the reality that his listeners (readers) probably do think he is mad, but he takes great pains to detail all the precise and well planned things he...

(The entire section contains 542 words.)

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