This is a chilling tale of madness and murder. “True!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am,” admits the narrator, “but why will you say that I am mad?” In a vain effort to prove his sanity by detailing how carefully he planned the gruesome deed, the narrator makes it abundantly clear from the first that he is dangerously deranged. Little is revealed about him, or about the old man that he kills. He did not hate the old man; indeed, he says he loved him. However, he had to kill him because he was tormented beyond distraction by the old man’s eye—“a pale blue eye, with a film over it.” In the first two paragraphs, the narrator draws the reader into the terrifying yet fascinating world of madness that has led him to murder.
Having decided to kill the old man, the narrator recalls with obvious pleasure how calculatingly he set about to do it. For seven successive nights, he slipped into the old man’s room just after midnight. He moved ever so slowly, first lifting the latch and then gradually insinuating himself into the room. Once inside, he would open his darkened lantern so that a single ray of light fell on his tormentor, that “vulture eye.” On each of those nights, however, the eye remained closed when the light fell on the old man’s face, and the narrator found it “impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye.” Although the old man possessed some wealth and was wary enough of robbers to have the shutters of his bed chamber nailed shut, the narrator insists that his victim suspected nothing. During the day, the narrator explains, he was kinder to the old man than ever before.
On the eighth night, the narrator was especially cautious, though almost ecstatic with feelings of power and triumph, certain that the old man knew nothing of what he was doing or planning to do. Reveling in the moment, he may well have laughed. At any rate, the old man startled in his bed. Moving steadily into the darkened bedroom, the narrator began to open the lantern, but his thumb slipped, and the old man cried out, asking who was there and sitting up in his bed. The narrator says that he did...
(The entire section is 892 words.)