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Themes

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is jammed with references to time and clocks. One could even say it's obsessed with time. The time structure seems fairly straightforward at first, but, through all the aforementioned references, it succeeds in confusing and eluding us. Some questions of time in the story are never answered, contributing to the confusion.

Questions About Time

  1. Are time and heartbeats connected in the novel? If so, does the connection enrich the story?
  2. In Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, narrator Montresor tells us exactly how much time has passed since he murdered Fortunato. Why doesn't our narrator do this?
  3. The events in the narrator's story occur over eight days. Is this significant? If so, why? Why would the narrator give us this detail, but not the month, or the year?
  4. How might the narrator have spent those first seven days? Do you think he sleeps? Why or why not?

Chew on This

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

Time is our only anchor in a "The Tell-Tale Heart," though, by the end of the story, we lose that anchor.

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