illustration of a human heart lying on black floorboards

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe

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What is the climax of "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

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The climax of "The Tell-Tale Heart" is not the murder of the old man, but rather the moment near the end of the penultimate paragraph when the narrator, driven mad by his guilt and the sound of a beating heart only he can hear, confesses to the crime. This moment is filled with tension and suspense, as the narrator tries to maintain his composure in front of the police, only to break under the psychological strain.

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The climax of a text is often considered to be the moment of maximum intensity or the highest amount of tension; it can also be a kind of turning point in the plot. After the narrator kills the old man, dismembering him and burying his body beneath the floorboards, it seems as though he is going to get away with the murder. The police come to investigate the shriek heard by a neighbor and he convinces them of his innocence with his easy manner that they are "satisfied" he is guiltless. The narrator begins to hear a sound that he believes to be the old man's heart beating, but we know this cannot be possible because the old man is quite dead. It becomes apparent that the sound the narrator hears must be his own heart, pounding hard and fast as a result of his adrenaline. The climax comes near the end of the penultimate paragraph of the story. The narrator's tension is clear, adding to our own when he says:

Oh God! what could I do? I foamed -- I raved -- I swore! [...] but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder -- louder -- louder! [....] I felt that I must scream or die! and now -- again! -- hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

In this moment, just prior to his confession, the story reaches its climax.

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This is one of Poe’s most suspenseful short stories.  Like much of this story, the suspense in the climax is psychological.  The story basically centers on the narrator, who is struggling with insanity.  He kills the old man, his roommate, because of his evil eye.

The climax of the story is not when the narrator kills the old man, cuts him up, and buries him under the floorboards.  Instead, the climax is when the narrator is driven mad by the old man’s still-beating heart, which he can hear in his mind.

The climax of the story is suspenseful because the police come and the start looking around, and the narrator makes small talk and tries to be casual and clever.  He even has the policemen sit in the same room where the body is buried!  Alas, he is driven so mad by the imaginary beating heart that he confesses.

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The climax of a short story is the highest point of intensity and often the turning point for the protagonist's fortune. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," the tension builds to the murder and then shifts to the cover up of events. I would suggest then that it is the murder that is the climax of the story as this seems to be the main turning point for the protagonist.

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What is the surprise ending in the story "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

Near the end of the story, it appears that the narrator is going to get away with his crime of murdering the old man. He is welcoming to the police and never loses his cool as they question him and search for the body. The police don't find the body. The narrator is even bold enough to put chairs for the police on the floor right over the spot where he has buried the old man. For all intents and purposes, the narrator has succeeded in deceiving the authorities.

The surprise ending is that the narrator is the cause of his own downfall. As he sits with the police, he thinks he hears the heart of the murdered man beating louder and louder. He also thinks the police detectives hear the sound too and are playing a joke on him by pretending not to. The sound of the heartbeat and the conviction that the police are toying with him are both so overwhelming to him that he confesses to the crime.

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What is the surprise ending in the story "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

The surprise ending comes when our main character is so plagued by the beating of his own heart, which he perceives to be the murder victim's, that he tears up the floorboards to expose his crime to the law enforcement officers on scene. Throughout the story, our protagonist battles with the beating heart, until at last he can stand no more, and reveals the dismembered body he has concealed beneath the planks of his own floor. As we gain a perspective inside our character's mind, we get to experience a small piece of his insanity. Poe was good at using the first person to engross his readership.

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What is the climax of the story "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

I agree that the climax to "The Tell-Tale Heart" comes at the very end when the planks are torn up to expose the still "beating heart." It could be argued that the climax occurs earlier, when the narrator finally kills the old man after so many days and nights of patient waiting. Certainly, there is a suspenseful build-up to this action. But because the story continues to build even after the murder, and an even more surprising and terrifying event occurs, I find the true climax at the end when the body is exposed to the police.

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What is the climax of the story "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is an interesting story to map because the action continually rises until the very end of the story.  The narrator experiences an increasing sense of "madness" until the end when he cannot take the beating of the heart any longer.  The moment when he decides to tear open the floor is the climax or turning point of the story.  At this time, the narrator is overwhelmed by his guilt from having killed the old man, and he cannot suppress this guilt in the face of the policemen.  So he decides to out himself as a means of dealing with his guilt making this the climax of the story.

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What is the falling action in the story "The Tell-tale Heart"?

I disagree with the above interpretation. Since the climax of a story is typically thought of as the moment of the most tension, I would locate the climax in the second to last and last paragraphs of "The Tell-Tale Heart," when the narrator's growing anxiety, fear, and, perhaps, guilt, seem to be getting the best of him, and he confesses to the crime.

Unlike the moment when he actually kills the old man, a moment not particularly tension-filled, the narrator's certainty that the police officers are aware of his guilt renders the penultimate paragraph particularly tense. He thinks that he hears the beating of the (dead) old man's heart beneath the floorboards, and he is sure that the officers hear it too. In just these paragraphs, the narrator uses twenty-five exclamation points to convey his tension.  However, if the climax -- the narrator's belief that he can hear the dead man's heart and that the police know, and the narrator's eventual confession to the murder -- arrives in the final lines of the story, this means that the story actually has no falling action; it concludes with the climactic confession of the narrator and we are left to imagine what takes place afterward.

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What is the falling action in the story "The Tell-tale Heart"?

In this classic short story by Edgar Allan Poe, the falling action starts with the man's dismembering the old man's body and burying it under the floor boards and continues through the arrival and questioning by the investigators and his imagining being able to hear the still beating heart of the man he killed.  Falling action is typically the event or series of events that immediately follow the climax and lead to the ultimate resolution of the story.  In this case, the resolution is the man spilling out the truth that he is the murderer.  He is driven to this final reveal by his guilt over his what he has done. 

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What is the rising action of "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

The narrator begins to think about killing the old man he lives with. Gradually he becomes obsessed with his desire to kill him although he doesn't really understand why he wants to do so. He keeps spying on the old man while he is asleep. The reader knows that sooner or later the narrator, who is obviously a madman, is going to commit a horrible murder. The suspense keeps building. The reader knows that there is going to be a murder committed but does not know when or how it will occur. Even the old man seems to know his life is in danger. He lies there in fear each night but seems paralyzed and unable to take any action to save himself.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily—until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

The narrator begins to hear what he takes to be the sound of the old man's heart beating furiously because of his intense fear. This heartbeat will continue to be a strong effect throughout the rest of the story and will give the story its title. 

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. 

And then, finally, the narrator acts.

The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once—once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him.

For a brief interval the narrator thinks he has committed the perfect crime. He dismembers the body and hides it under the floor. But the old man's single shriek and the murderer's "loud yell" have alarmed the neighbors. The police show up at four o'clock in the morning, just after the narrator has put everything back in order. The narrator behaves with complete composure, and it appears that he is going to get away with the murder. After all, everything looks perfectly normal. But then he begins to hear that beating heart again. He believes it is his victim's heartbeat, even though he has cut off the old man's head as well as his arms and legs. The heartbeat continues to drum louder and louder in his ears. Evidently it is his own heart beating with fear of being exposed as a murderer.

Yet the sound increased—and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. 

The sound is so obvious to the narrator that he believes the policemen must also be well aware of it. If so, why do they say nothing about it? Why don't they seem suspicious? The narrator assumes they are playing cat-and-mouse with him. They are only waiting for that tell-tale heart to make him break down and confess. And finally he does so.

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks! here, here!—It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

He must be completely insane to believe that the old man's heart could still be beating after he had murdered him and cut his body into pieces. There has been a rising feeling of suspense since the beginning of the story. The tension increased up to the time of the murder. Then it began to increase even further when the police arrived. The narrator was not in any danger before the arrival of the police. The murder only made the tension greater because it brought the forces of the law. The narrator's exposure illustrates the thesis of Poe's story, which can be stated in the words used by Hamlet in Shakespeare's play:

For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ

Macbeth expresses the same idea in another Shakespeare play:

It will have blood: they say blood will have blood.
Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;
Augures and understood relations have
By maggot pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
The secret'st man of blood. 

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What is the climax in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

This is one of my favorite stories!

Here are some helpful hints on finding the climax of ANY story. Author's usually write their plots in a typical format. Here it is: 

1. The exposition (the part of the story where you get the background and details about the setting, characters, potential conflicts, etc.).

2. The narrative hook, (where the author grabs your attention).

3. The rising action (this is where the author creates tension and suspense through conflict).

4. The climax (the turning point of the story).

5. The falling action  (where the READER learns about the main character's reaction to the climax.

6. The denouement/wrap-up (the final tying together of the story).

Look at Step 4, the turning point of the story. I think you'll find the the climax is where the main character can no longer tolerate his guilty conscience. That dreadful heart beating in his head, is actually a manifestation of his guilt. He can no longer stand the sound, so he rips open the floor revealing his crime! 

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What is the climax in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?

The climax of the story occurs when the narrator can no longer stand the sound of the beating heart, and finally breaks down. He confesses and gives away the hiding place of the body beneath the floorboards.

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What would you say is the climax of "The Tell-Tale Heart"? Why?

In literature, the climax is the name given to the most dramatic and intense moment of a story. If we relate this to "The Tell-Tale Heart," then we see that the climax happens when the narrator breaks into the old man's bedroom and murders him.

All of the events preceding the murder have been used by Poe to build tension in the story. The narrator tells us that he has to murder the old man because of the "evil eye," for example, and that he has spent seven nights waiting for the moment to strike. Finally, on the eighth night, he seizes the moment and successfully carries out his murderous plan. The tension in the story has, therefore, reached its peak.

After the murder, Poe sets the scene for the falling action (when the narrator tries to cover up the murder) and the resolution (when he lifts the floorboards to reveal his crime).

Alternately, we might interpret the narrator's confession as the climax of the story; the moments leading up to it are full of tension as the narrator imagines he hears the old man's heartbeat and begins to act increasingly suspicious in front of the police officers. In this interpretation, the story cuts off before any kind of resolution or falling action; we are left to infer from the beginning of the story that the narrator has most likely been arrested (after which he recounts his story).

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In "The Tell-Tale Heart," what is the climax?

Your original question asked more than one question, so I have had to edit it down to focus on the climax of this terrifying story. Let us remember that the climax of the story comes after the rising action, where the story reaches its high point, or the stage at which the reader is most engaged and excited about what is happening. It comes before the resolution, when the conflict is resolved and we are given our ending.

It is clear then that in this story, the climax actually comes when the policemen come to visit, alerted by a neighbour about the shriek that was heard as the narrator killed the old man. Interestingly, at first, the narrator is completely nonchalant about their arrival:

I smiled - for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search - search well.

The narrator clearly feels that he has nothing to be worried about, having concealed the body. He talks of the "wild audacity of my perfect triumph" as he revels in the fact that the policemen sit in the same room where he has concealed the corpse. The policemen are obviously satisfied, but stay talking to the narrator, until he begins to hear a sound, which with terror he realises is the sound of the old man's heart, still beating.

It is this point that is the climax, as the sound of the heart becomes ever louder, driving the narrator insane and causing him to confess to the murder that he would have otherwise gotten away with.

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