The Tell Tale Heart Edgar Allan Poe | Neb Hseb Notes

The Tell Tale Heart Edgar Allan Poe

“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a first-person narrative of an unnamed narrator who insists he is sane but suffering from a disease (nervousness) ...



“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a first-person narrative of an unnamed narrator who insists he is sane but suffering from a disease (nervousness) which causes “over-acuteness of the senses”. The old man with whom he lives has a clouded, pale, blue “vulture-like” eye which so distresses the narrator that he plots to murder the old man, though the narrator states that he loves the old man, and hates only the eye. The narrator insists that his careful precision in committing the murder shows that he cannot possibly be insane. For seven nights, the narrator opens the door of the old man’s room, a process which takes him a full hour. However, the old man’s vulture eye is always closed, making it impossible to “do the work”.

On the eighth night, the old man awakens and sits up in his own bed while the narrator performs his nightly ritual. The narrator does not draw back and, after some time, decides to open his lantern. A single ray of light shines out and lands precisely on the old man’s eye, revealing that it is wide open. Hearing the old man’s heart beating unusually and dangerously quick from terror, the narrator decides to strike, jumping out with a loud yell and smothering the old man with his own bed. The narrator dismembers the body and conceals the pieces under the floorboards, making certain to hide all signs of the crime. Even so, the old man’s scream during the night causes a neighbor to report to the police. The narrator invites the three arriving officers in to look around. He claims that the screams heard were his own in a nightmare and that the man is absent in the country. Confident that they will not find any evidence of the murder, the narrator brings chairs for them and they sit in the old man’s room, right on the very spot where the body is concealed, yet they suspect nothing, as the narrator has a pleasant and easy manner about him.

The narrator, however, begins to hear a faint noise. As the noise grows louder, the narrator comes to the conclusion that it is the heartbeat of the old man coming from under the floorboards. The sound increases steadily, though the officers seem to pay no attention to it. Shocked by the constant beating of the heart and a feeling that not only are the officers aware of the sound, but that they also suspect him, the narrator confesses to killing the old man and tells them to tear up the floorboards to reveal the body.

“The Tell-Tale Heart” uses an unreliable narrator. The exactness with which the narrator recounts murdering the old man, as if his stealthy way of executing the crime is evidence of his sanity, reveals his monomania and paranoia..

Summary 2



The Tell-Tale Heart is a psychological story by Edgar Allan Poe. The story has two major characters: the narrator and the old man. The narrator is an obsessed man of active senses. He claims that he can hear every mild and whispering sound very clearly. He has craze of homicide. The next character is an old man who has a pale thick blue vulture eye. He has plenty of gold coins in his room. He keeps his room dark so that no one can see his property. The narrator has not the vices of common men; he is neither greedy nor jealous. He is a good-mannered man. He behaves nicely with the old man, but when he looks at his vulture eyes, his blood becomes cold and he suffers from death like fear. The vulture eye is the very panic to him. He hates his vulture eye and can’t tolerate it at all. He decides to get rid of such panic vulture eye by killing the old man.

He makes a strategy to kill the old man. He visits his door at midnight, unlatches the doors and makes a space to look inside the room very peacefully and continuously by passing hours after hours. He undoes the lantern for a thin single ray and gives its focus on his eye. He finds the old man is in his sleep. He gets back to latch the door, continuously and calmly. He can’t kill the old man because he has slept with his vulture eye closed. Therefore, he does not become angry.

He continues his work. He passes seven fruitless nights. On the eighth night when he keeps his head inside the room and keeps his thumb on the tin-fastening to raise the beam of light, his thumb slips producing a sound. This sound awakes the old man from his sleep. He sits on his bed and enquires about the appearance of anybody else in his room. The narrator keeps his body fixed like stone. He listens to the groan of his heart and assumes that the old man is in deep fear; he feels the sound is charged with extreme fear. Passing some hours, he throws the beam of light on his eye and looks at his vulture eye. At the same moment he listens to a dull, quick and muffled sound. He thinks it is the sound of the old man’s heart beating. This sound stimulates him. He throws the lamp to one side of the room and cries, instantly leaps on his bed and smoothers the old man with his heavy bed. And, after a while the old man passes the world.

He dismembers his corpse into pieces and packs them under the wooden floor of the room by removing three planks. After packing them he repairs the planks very wisely without any room for suspicion. He keeps some chairs over the wooden floor and laughs for his success. It is 4pm. Three police officers come to investigate the situation. The narrator entraps them in word net and makes them satisfied. They sit on the chair on the request of the narrator.

The police officers begin to laugh on their own business. Their laughing makes him excited. He thinks they are insulting and mocking him. Perhaps they know him and his contemptuous deed, the murder! At the same moment, he listens to the dull, quick tick-tack sound coming from under the planks. The sound puzzles him. He has sensitive ears, so every moment the sound seems to him very loud. He can’t tolerate the loudness of the sound nor can he tolerate the constant laughing of the policemen. His heart betrays him. He is charged with impulse and confesses his crime. The title is also justified in this way.



Would you call the narrator mad? Give reasons for your answer.



The narrator is not mad but he suffers from mental derangement. He speaks like a man who has lost touch with the day to day world. He kills the old man for not any valid reason rather he has a disease – homicide. By the observation of his action, we cannot claim that he is mad rather we may say he is excessively clever man. When he tries to kill the old man, he plays double roles. At night, he tries his best to kill him and in the day he proves that he is his best friend. His behaviour, his precaution, his manner and his logic are very appreciable. A mad person cannot think and argue like the narrator. In brief, we may say there is something abnormal in his mind, on the one hand. And on the other hand he peacefully and cleverly unlatches the door keeping his head inside and tries to raise the beam of light. A mad man cannot know the game of word but the narrator is so clever that he makes the police officers fool by applying his word game.

By the deep psychological study he seems to be a man of high intellect. He does not touch the gold coins of the old man. He claims that he has killed the old man not for the worldly affair but for his panic vulture eye. Generally, a mad man does not think such noble thought. On the other hand, he kills him for very private reason – only for the vulture eye. So, we cannot say he is mad rather he has an obsession of killing.

The narrator is mad: The story is driven not by the narrator’s insistence upon his innocence but by insistence on hissanity. This, however, is self-destructive because in attempting to prove his sanity he fully admits he is guilty of murder. His denial of insanity is based on his systemic actions and precision—a rational explanation for irrational behavior. This rationality, however, is undermined by his lack of motivation (“Object there was none. Passion there was none.”). Despite this, he says the idea of murder, “haunted me day and night”. The story’s final scene, however, is a result of the narrator’s feelings of guilt. His nerves dictate his true nature. Despite his best efforts at defending himself, the narrator’s “over acuteness of the senses,” which help him hear the heart beating in the floorboards, is actually evidence that he is truly mad.



It is also unclear, however, if the narrator actually has very acute senses or if he is merely imagining things. If his condition is believed to be true, what he hears at the end of the story may not be the old man’s heart but death watch beetles. The narrator first admits to hearing death watches in the wall after startling the old man from his sleep. According to superstition, death watches are a sign of impending death.

Write the character sketch of the narrator.

The narrator is a complex character in this story. He is a mysterious man of abnormal character. It is very difficult to understand his hidden motives. It seems that he is a sufferer of a kind of mental illness. He has a craze of homicide. It seems that he is very wise and skilled culprit. He takes every step of his strategy very cautiously. He has not any vices of common man. He is not greedy and he has not any kind of enmity with the old man. He is a man of good behaviour but he has double layer of complexity in his mind.

Inwardly he tries his best to kill the old man; outwardly he shows his good behaviour and courtesy with the old man. He is very skillful and careful person in his profession. He completes his mission without sleeping up to 8 nights. It shows his sincerity, devotion to work. He is a man of strong determination. Once he is determined, he completes it at any rate. It means he is a man of fixed idea and hard decision. He knows how to use the word net. He entraps the police officers in his word net. On the other hand, he is very argumentative and logical. He takes every step phase-by-phase logically providing certain reasons. He is a man of extra-ordinary mind. He has a long vision also. He thinks very deeply and acts as if he is a veteran criminal. So, in short, we may say that the narrator is clever, shrewd, cunning, sincere, hard decision maker, a man of strong determination and a brave person ready to fulfill his mission. Except his drawback of unstoppable want to kill, he is a genial, amicable and good-natured, simple person.

Justify the title “The Tell Tale Heart”.

A tale tell heart is one which reveals or indicates something covert or concealed. The narrator seems to have very sensitive ears because when he entered the old man’s room to kill him his ears hear a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. The sound was possibly of the watch the old man was wearing or alternatively, the sound of the watch beetle that is known to surround a dying body. But for the narrator it was the old man’s heart. He was excited to uncontrollable terror and finally, dragging the old man to the floor, kills him. He even places his hand over the heart, which didn’t pulsate. Any way after he kills the old man that night, he dismembers body parts, and places them under the floorboards. Meanwhile, the policemen – they have arrived at the old man’s house upon receiving information – sit on the chairs placed for them, and talk with each other. The sound of the beating heart starts growing on him again. This must have happened as he must have forgotten to remove the watch off the old man’s hand or the watch beetle may have continued buzzing. But with each passing moment, the narrator’s mental equilibrium takes a nasty turn. In his mental fit, he believes the sound reaching his ears was the beating of the dead old man’s heart. Now unable to control the continuous sound, he confesses of the murder. It was the supposed beating of the dead heart that led to the revelation of the crime. Thus, the title of the story is justified.

Write the summary of the story in one paragraph.

The story follows an unnamed narrator who insists on his sanity after murdering an old man with a “vulture eye”. The murder is carefully calculated, and the murderer hides the body by dismembering it and hiding it under the floorboards. Ultimately the narrator’s guilt manifests itself in the hallucination that the man’s heart is still beating under the floorboards.

Raj Kumar Gautam, Arniko College, rgautam78@yahoo.com, 10 Mangsir, 2070

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