illustration of a human heart lying on black floorboards

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe

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1. Although this is a story of madness, for Poe there is no such thing as "meaningless madness." Write a discussion of the nature of madness in the story.

2. Poe insisted that every detail in a short story should relate to its central effect and thus contribute to a unified story. What unifies this story? What central effect holds it together? How can you tell the difference between those details that are meaningful and those that are not?

3. Poe is often concerned with the theme of time and mortality, that is, how human beings are trapped in time and thus doomed to death. Explain how this story reflects this common Poe theme.

4. Look at other Poe stories which focus on an obsessed, seemingly mad, narrator, such as "The Black Cat," "The Imp of the Perverse," and "The Cask of Amontillado." What characteristics do the narrators in these stories share?

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