illustration of a human heart lying on black floorboards

The Tell-Tale Heart

by Edgar Allan Poe

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Topics for Discussion

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1. The narrator insists from the very beginning of the story that he is not insane. What characteristics does he say prove his sanity? What characteristics suggest his madness instead?

2. Look carefully at the narrator's discussion of his motivation for the crime. Why does he assure the reader that he loves the old man and has no reasonable cause to kill him?

3. Notice how cautiously the narrator sets up the murder of the old man? How does he do this? Why does he take so long before killing him?

4. Notice all those places in the story when the narrator identifies with the old man. Discuss the nature of this identification.

5. Discuss all the references to time in the story—watches, clocks, time passing, etc. Why is the narrator so concerned with time?

6. Notice the narrator's insistence that what is mistaken for madness is actually an over acuteness of the senses. What sense is particularly acute? What relevance does this have in the story?

7. When the police call to investigate, why does the narrator invite them in and ask them to stay for a while? What does this reveal about his personality?

8. If this is not a supernatural story which actually presents the beating of a dead man's heart, then what makes the narrator finally confess? Explain.

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