illustration of a human heart lying on black floorboards

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe

Start Free Trial

Who is the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" speaking to and from where?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The unreliable narrator's audience is never revealed in the short story. However, the narrator is desperately attempting to convince his audience that he is completely sane. Interestingly, the narrator mentions that he has the ability to hear "all things in the heaven and in the earth," as well as in...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

hell, which is a clue that he is insane. The narrator also speaks confidently to his audience and is motivated to tell the entire story of how he murdered the old man in order to convince the audience of his sanity.

Given the fact that the narrator informs the police of his crime, one could assume that the narrator is telling his story from prison. He may be telling his story to a psychologist, another inmate, or a person interrogating him at the precinct. In my opinion, the unreliable narrator is speaking to a prosecutor in court and arguing that he was completely sane when he brutally murdered the old man. In this scenario, the narrator would be telling his story from a witness stand in court while addressing the prosecutor, judge, and jury. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As far as we know, the narrarator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" is relaying his story to the reader. One could imagine one of many audiences, and by not defining the audience, Poe allows us to invent an audience, or to be content being the narrarators only audience.

The setting is also left ambiguous. I often like to imagine the narrarator telling his story from inside of a cell in a lunatic asylum, but of course, that's just my own imagination.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The story is told in first person and reads like a confession, but whether the narrator is telling it to himself, to other officers after his revelation, to the reader, or to someone else is unclear. The location of the house is also never pinpointed.

The ambiguity of these details only adds to the mysteriouness and unsettling feeling of the story.

Approved by eNotes Editorial