Why does the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" wait till the eight night to commit the murder?He watched him for 7 nights and on the eighth night he suffocated him. Why is the 8th night significant?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In certain cultures, the number eight is extremely significant.  In the Jewish culture, for instance, the concept of man having the ability to transcend his nature is represented by the number eight.  When the High Priest officiated, he wore eight garments.  And, from their eighth day onward, animals could be offered as sacrifices.  In Edgar Allan Poe's story, "The Tell-Tale Heart," there seems much importance given to the eighth day by the narrator.  It is the day of completion. Poe's narrator writes,

Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers--of my sagacity.  I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. 

Not only does the narrator sense the significance of the eighth day, but the old man feels the power of this night as well.  He knows that the narrtor is going to kill him.

dymatsuoka's profile pic

dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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It is something about the old man's "cloudy, pale blue eye" which incites madness in the narrator.  He says that when the old man looks at him, his "blood turns cold".  The narrator wants to see the "Evil Eye" once more before he kills the old man, but each night for the first week the old man is asleep when he sneaks into his room.  Finally, on the eighth night, the old man is awake.  The narrator shines a light on his eye and kills him.

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