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The Tell-Tale Heart

The Tell-Tale Heart


by Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart Theme of Cunning and Cleverness

The main character of "The Tell-Tale Heart" promises us a tale of cunning and cleverness, and delivers. At the onset, we doubt the cleverness; maybe we even feel cleverer than the story. But as Edgar Allan Poe's ten-paragraph masterpiece unfolds, we find we are caught in the story's web, just as the characters are. We must regain our cunning and cleverness to get out. It'll make us smarter.

Questions About Cunning and Cleverness

  1. Do you think the narrator is intelligent? Why, or why not?
  2. If the narrator is so clever, why couldn't he have found a solution to the eye problem other than murder? Does this comment on his reasoning ability?
  3. Was the narrator's confession an act of cunning, or genuine guilt? How could a confession benefit him? How could not confessing help him or hurt him?
  4. Do you feel smarter after having studied this story? How might you use it to teach critical thinking skills to others?
  5. Was Poe clever to write this story? Could you improve it? If so, how?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The narrator's cunning is nullified by his cruelty.

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