Title: "The Tell-Tale Heart"
Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Challenges: Literary Movement Reading Challenge (Romanticism)
Originally I was reading The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper, for my Romanticism choice; however, after dragging myself through 50% of the book, I couldn't anymore!
The biggest problem was that I had an expectation about the story from the movie, which is one of my favorites of all-time. Unfortunately, in this case, the story in the book is not at all like the story from the movie - at least not the first half of the book. I also found the dialogue long, tedious, and not believable, while the overall plot did not keep my interest. I could not appreciate it as I had hoped to; therefore, I put it back on my shelf for another day, or year.
In the meantime, I still wanted to read something for Romanticism, but most of my choices would have been too long - except for Edgar Allan Poe's short stories. So I choose my very favorite: "The Tell-Tale Heart."
When I read this story, I have to read it aloud, with expression! I just cannot read it quietly to myself.
"The Tell-Tale Heart" is about the narrator, the main character, who tries to convince the reader that he is not mad or insane; he recounts how he committed a wretched deed, as we will find out, with such caution and premeditation, which should be evidence enough for his rationality. However, as he reveals his wicked plan to murder an old man, whom he says he loved, the reader is more assured that the narrator is obsessed, irrational, and heartless.
The narrator planned for an entire week to murder the old man because, he says, he hated his "evil eye." There was nothing else about the old man that disturbed him other than the presence of his eye. Every night, for one week, the narrator opened the door of the bedroom where the old man slept, and "thrust in his head" into the darkness; but on the eighth night, the narrator opened the door to the old man's room and shone the light of his lantern on the old man, as a beam of light fell directly upon the "vulture eye." The old man, who may have been blind, though the story does not reveal, knew someone was in his bedroom. The narrator imagined that he could hear the old man's heartbeat growing louder and louder, and that even the neighbors may hear it. In anxiety, he murdered the old man.
Still intent on convincing the reader of his sanity, he told how he carefully dismembered the body and stuffed the parts under the floorboards. When police arrived a few hours later, the narrator was calm and collected that even they were convinced of the story he told them about the missing old man and the scream the neighbor's must have heard. However, he imagined he could hear the heartbeat of the old man beneath the floor, and he believed the police could hear it, too. They were mocking him, he was certain. In his irrationality, he called them "Villains!" for pretending not to hear the heart, and desperately disclosed the crime and made his confession.
I used to think that the beating heart was his own guilty conscience, but I wonder if the narrator even had a conscience. If he had a conscience, or a "heart," he would have had compassion to guide him. Instead he was heartless and committed a wicked, evil crime.
In addition, all of the main character's feelings and thoughts are senseless. For example, he believed the old man's eye was evil. There was no other reason given about the old man that proved he was wicked, only the condition of his eye made him evil, which did not make sense. Secondly, the attempt to prove his sanity did not work because with every step he demonstrated to the reader that he was crazy. And finally, when he believed the police officers were mocking him, he thought he was more clever by revealing his very own evil deed to them; but instead he lead to his own demise and conviction.
One last note: another great way to read through The Tell-Tale Heart is to listen to it performed by Vincent Price: