The Tell-Tale Heart Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

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In "The Tell-Tale Heart, why does the narrator kill the old man?

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Simply put, the narrator is crazy. A more developed answer might be, the narrator is unbalanced. Because he thinks he can hear the old man's heart, he thinks others can too. Therefore, he kills the old man to protect himself from being discovered. This can be seen in this passage: " But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound would be heard by a neighbour!"

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amelheim | Student

Edgar Allan Poe was inspired by Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, which ran sensational tales. Stories about murder, madness, and drug addiction were Poe's sources of inspiration. A madman kills his tragically disfigured, elderly landlord because it's shocking and horrible. It's a pretense to the stark realism of a news headline. Mental illness wasn't properly understood in Poe's time period and it was a subject that generated equal amounts of fear and fascination. No one knew why people did the things that they did, and there was no medication. Poe's portrayal of the narrator as being gripped by a delusional belief he can't shake suggests schizophrenia. "It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night."

idnln | Student

The narrator is tormented by the old man's "eye of a vulture", and explains that "whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold." His "pale blue eye, with a film over it" implies that the man had little or no use of this eye. By comparing it to a vulture, the narrator likens his victim to a predator who pursues the weak or dead. Vultures are known for their sharp vision. In this story, the old man cannot literally see his killer in the days and moments leading up to his death. However, as the narrator's sanity unravels, the eye develops into a metaphor for moral judgement.

After several nights of lurking in the shadows, our protagonist finds it "impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye." He is only able to kill him when his "Evil Eye" is open.

Throughout the story, the narrator insists that he is sane. Yet the eye is a nagging reminder of his "disease". He has been weighed down by disturbing thoughts, explaining that "I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell." Ultimately, he kills the man in an unsuccessful attempt to release his mental anguish.

jordin | Student

I think the narrator killed the old man because of his "pale blue eye, with a film over it".

piathm | Student


piathm | Student

the narrator killed the old man simply because of his eye which reminded the narrator of a vulture.

"Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees-very gradually-i made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the ye for ever." (Quote)

he also had stated that he did not have anything against the old man.

"I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult."

studdmuffin811 | Student

Why did the guy kill the narrator ? Except his eye. I need another answer 

fireblazer96 | Student


nueget101 | Student

If you think about it he really isn't crazy because he plans it out.  If he were crazy he would kill more like a rabid animal.  He is more like a killer you know like those sick evil ones that like to describe how the are going to kill someone in detail and the process of how they are going to do it. I understand why you would think he is crazy because anyone who wants to kill another human being exspecially for something so small as a weird looking filmed over eye has something wrong with them. But he truly kills the old man because of his eye. I hope this help some you know coming from a 13 year old 8th grader and all.:)

r-i-t-h-a-a | Student

because th narrator hated the old man's eye. its was like th eye of a vulture. pale and blue. and that eye haunted him everywhere he went, so thats why. but th narrator isnt all that mad, because if he were a madmen, he wouldnt have calculated th murder out so well with every step. :)

jocquez | Student

look iam in 8th grade and dont know much but i know he wasnt insane look im doing a speech on how he wasnt insane just misunderstanding and i am starting to believe it the heartbeat he hear he think it the old mans but its his, might u think he crazy well no he is not he just get that he is hearing his own which shows he has a conscience and do crazy people have conscience, no they dont so is he insane think about it

kimyatta | Student

dont know

lacibabyy00 | Student

the narrator killed the old man only because he had a problem with the elderly man's eye.

desireaaa | Student

the narrator kils the old man because ge is crazy, and he doesn't like one of the old mans eyes.

lesli93 | Student

the narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart kills the old man simply because of the way one of his eyes looks. the narrator states that he likes the old he just doesn't like the way his eye looks.

iris09 | Student

The narrator kills the old man because, he didnt like his fake eye.

link2008 | Student

the narrator kills the old-man simply, because "he" (the old man) had an eye problem that he was unable to endure, regardless the  rarity of the  occasion.