The Tell-Tale Heart
The Tell-Tale Heart
by Edgar Allan Poe
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The Tell-Tale Heart Theme of Mortality

"The Tell-Heart" is a murder mystery, the kind where we know who the killer is (sort of), but can't really understand his motives. This story deals with the fear of death, with dying, and the question of how a person can kill another. As such, Edgar Allan Poe's story is suffused with an underlying sadness, and a sense of mourning.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Is the narrator afraid of dying? What passage can you use to prove your point?
  2. Is it significant that the narrator kills the man with his own bed? Does this detail impact your reading? Would substituting a different murder weapon significantly change the story?
  3. Some critics and readers believe that the narrator plans to commit suicide after he tells us the story. Do you think there is evidence for this theory? If so, what? If not, why is this theory improbable?
  4. If you knew the narrator killed himself after telling the story, would this change your feelings toward him? If so, how? If not, why?

Chew on This

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

Because the narrator believes that the old man is a vulture, he thinks he's killing the old man in self-defense.

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