Literary Criticism of Tell-Tale Heart

2095 Words Feb 20th, 2013 9 Pages
Lam 1
Bethany Lam
Mrs. Patrick
American Literature
22 December 2009
Literary Analysis and Criticism of “The Tell-Tale Heart” Human beings have all experienced guilt, the consequence of committing a wrong, and the manipulation it has on decisions. In the short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” author Edgar Allan Poe demonstrates the theme that guilt is strong and has the power to overcome conscience; he uses characterization, the conflict, and symbolism to communicate this message. The characterization of the narrator most clearly shows this theme. In addition to Poe’s use of characterization, his decision to show the struggle the narrator endures with himself reveals the causes of the narrator to succumb to his guilt. The use of symbolism
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The narrator’s reasons for killing the old man provide as much trivial proof of his sanity as his precautions do. The narrator “has no rational reason for wanting to kill the old man” (Chua 1). He declares to have desired to kill the old man as to rid himself of the old man’s vulture eye. The description of the old man’s eye as that of a vulture is the narrator’s attempt to defend his actions by comparing himself to a vulnerable being defenseless to an unsightly scavenger. The narrator claims, “Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye!” (Poe 1). The narrator declares love for the old man whom he brutally murdered and dismembered, chuckling at his cleverness in doing so. In an effort to divide the person of the old man from the old man’s allegedly evil eye, which prompts the narrator’s hatred, the narrator discloses his insanity. This delusional partition allows the narrator to be oblivious to the irony of claiming to have loved his victim. The first-person narration of the story helps reveal the narrator’s mental illness to the reader. “The particular standpoint from which the ‘Tell-Tale Heart’ is told…

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