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The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe
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Write an analysis of this passage from "The Tell-Tale Heart": "Every night about twelve o'clock I slowly opened his door. And when the door was opened wide enough I put my hand in, and then my head. In my hand I held a light covered over with a cloth so that no light showed."

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This passage from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" can be analyzed as part of the characterization of the narrator. He recalls,

Every night about twelve o’clock I slowly opened his door. And when the door was opened wide enough I put my hand in, and then...

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This passage from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" can be analyzed as part of the characterization of the narrator. He recalls,

Every night about twelve o’clock I slowly opened his door. And when the door was opened wide enough I put my hand in, and then my head. In my hand I held a light covered over with a cloth so that no light showed.

Writers have choices about the way they develop characters; it can be through the character's words, thoughts, and actions, as is the case in this story, or it can come from a third-person narrator or through what other characters say. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," readers only get the perspective of the narrator, because he is the only character in the story who speaks. In the excerpt above, the narrator is attempting to achieve two purposes: to convince the reader of his sanity and to prove that he is a criminal mastermind who very patiently and methodically premeditated the murder of the old man. It begins with "every night" to suggest that he is disciplined and consistent in his approach to gaining the necessary advantage over his victim.

This excerpt not only develops the character of the narrator; it also offers clear imagery of how he executed his premeditation. Readers get a clear picture of him creeping to the old man's door and slowly and carefully entering his room, over and over again, to perfect his technique without being detected. This imagery serves yet another purpose: it builds the story's suspense and the reader's anticipation.

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