The Telltale Heart
"The Telltale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe is the epitome of creepy. (We know we could say that about all of EAP's stories, but it's especially true for this one.) In this short story, a nameless man kills his neighbor and buries his heart under his floorboards because the neighbor's eye annoys him. Now that the deed is done, he's telling us the story to prove he's not crazy. Good luck with that one, buddy.
|19th-Century Literature||19th-Century American Literature|
|American Literature||19th-Century American Literature|
All American Literature
|Author||Poe - Edgar Allan Poe|
|Themes||Morality and Ethics|
Versions of Reality
He says he likes this old guy that lives in his
building. . .
. . .except for one teeny, tiny little thing. . .
. . .his wild and crazy vulture eye. The eye is making him so mental. . .
. . .that he decides it's got to go. . .
. . .and comes up with a plan to off the poor old guy while he's sleeping.
Sure, he could have found another way. . .
. . .but then Poe wouldn't have had anything to write about, would he?
What we want to know is... why did it take him eight days to do it?
He tells us right from the get-go he's a nervous individual. . . .
. . .so maybe he just had to work up the nerve. It wasn't as if he had ever murdered anyone
before. . .
. . .at least we don't think he did. . .
. . .so he probably didn't want to screw it up.
And then there was the whole sanity issue.
What better way to prove you're sane than a carefully thought-out plan?
Yeah, we know. Insane people are never, ever methodical.
But taking eight days to get rid of your neighbor. . .
. . .at least shows you put a little thought and effort into it.
Then again, maybe it was just one big accident.
Maybe the narrator would have killed the old man on whatever day he woke up.
If the old guy had been a heavier sleeper. . .
. . .he might still be flashing that creepy eye today.
So, why did it take eight days to commit the crime?
Was the killer trying to find the courage to go through with it. . .
. . .was he trying to prove his sanity with his precision and planning. . .
. . .or was it just accidental circumstance? Shmoop amongst yourselves.