Overthinking about Edgar Allan Poe’s: The Tell-Tale Heart

I’ve been doing a lot of Lovecraft’s work so I think it’s time for a change. And what better to change things up with than a Poe story.

I was looking into Christopher Lee’s work and noticed that he had done some readings of Poe’s work. That was an immediate must for me to check those out. I mean what could possibly be better than Christopher Lee reading Poe? This was one of the few stories that he has read, another notable read of his is “The Raven”.

The Tell-Tale Heart is a story told from the perspective of our unnamed narrator who lives with an old man which was first published in January 1843 in the inaugural issue of The Pioneer: A Literary and Critical Magazine. 

Although the narrator swears that he is sane we can see for ourselves quite easily that it is not the case. The fact that he is telling us his story about how he plans the murder the old man which he is living with is a pretty big red flag in the first place. According to him, the old man has a very big vulture-like eye which causes him great distress, so much so that it makes him want to kill him even though he says that he loves him. Determined to prove his sanity he tells us of the intricacies of his plan and how he carefully opened the door to his room for seven nights but the eye was never open so he could never do the deed.

However, on the eighth night due to a slip up the old man awakens. The narrator shines the lantern towards it and sees the eye. Hearing the heartbeat the old man starting to beat faster motivates him even more and he decides to murder him. He cuts up the body into smaller pieces and hides it under the floorboards. However, once the police arrive his guilt starts manifesting and he begins to dive further into insanity.

This was my first read of Poe’s work in ages and it is definitely worth it. It’s a fantastic story exploring the mind of a deranged and paranoid person which will definitely send shivers down your spine. It’s very short but precise and the way that it is written is with no surprise amazing. You can clearly see why this is one of his most well-known stories. The fact that the point of the narrator’s story is not to prove his innocence but to prove his sanity is definitely what made the story really stick with me. That and the fantastic way that the mind of an insane person was described.

There is also a lot of ambiguity in the story which if you have been following me you know I really like. We don’t know anything about the narrator nor the old man. Thus several theories have surfaced. Some people say that the narrator is actually a female who has been tired of being used by the old man and decides to free herself.

Others say that it is a man that was just sick of his father and wanted to rid himself of the control that the old man had on his life. This theory can be supported by the fact that he called the eye vulture-like and vultures are known to feed on the weak and the nearly dead. It could also be a supernatural presence, the spirit of the old man that takes his revenge for his death. However, another theory has been floating around in my mind.

Now, of course, this is just me overanalyzing but what if the old man represents a part of him that he really disliked. A deformed version of him that reminded him of something that he did or someone that he was. After all, no one can really hear the heartbeat of another person. I’m positive that the heartbeat that he heard was his own, but does it really add up? Probably not.

It’s more likely that the old man embodied something that he really disliked. Perhaps judgment or mocking. The narrator is someone who is very afraid of being judged and he constantly tries to convince us not to judge him as someone insane. The eye was annoying him because it maybe represents a sort of all-seeing eye that would see a side of him that he does not want anyone else to see. He also sees the police officers as villains and feels like they are mocking him. This shows that the narrator is a very insecure person who in his own reality must do everything that he can in order to seem like a normal functioning person.

There could be a lot of different possible interpretations and that is what I most love about this story. So short and yet with so much to offer. One thing is for certain though. The narrator did feel guilt near the end.

I actually had a lot of fun overthinking stories like these. Shame I didn’t enjoy this in high school haha. Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

Final verdict: 10/10

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