Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale heart illustrates that guilt is a powerful motivating factor behind an individual’s actions. Symbolism, tone, and the content of the short story all interact with one another and work together to create certain effects and meanings within the short story. This short story shows how guilt can overwhelm and conquer the mind, which in turn led to the confession of the homicide the narrator committed and revealed at the end of the story. Poe describes the main characters thoughts and actions and the effect that his mental instability has on it. The author shows how large a role the human psyche can play when under duress, as well as how much guilt can drive our actions. Without the teamwork and utilization of symbolism, tone and the series of unfortunate events within this piece, the short story would be ineffective and uninteresting to readers.
The symbolism in the story works together with content to give meaning to this piece of literature. The symbolism described offers an image to create an effect for the audience. In the beginning of the story, the narrator visits the old man every night at midnight to watch him sleep. He enters the old man’s room with a lantern to shine light on the old man’s vulture like eye. The eye represents the old man’s soul. The main character believes that the Evil Eye has power to curse him and it gives him anxiety. The feeling of uneasiness the speaker gets from the old man’s eye causes him to murder the old man. The other symbol that is presented in the story is the beating heart. After he buried the body under the floor boards, the police officers came to the house. When speaking with them he heard the beating heart of the victim he slaughtered and dismembered. The beating of the heart gradually grew louder and drove him insane. He could not bear the sound of the beating heart any longer and confessed his wrong doings to the officers. The beating heart exemplifies guilt and how powerful it can be against the human mind. The Symbolism introduces the audience to the concept of the narrator’s insanity and sense of guilt for murdering the old man.
The tone affects the story and allows the readers to comprehend the mood and emotion behind it. I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctnessall dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones (Poe 1) sets the tone in this piece of writing. The tone is somber, and anxious. The poem describes the narrator and his obsession of the old man’s eye and the slaughtering of the man; then his sanity changing and confessing the homicide of the innocent man. All of these elements combined make for a short story is eerie, dark and unsettling. Poe creates suspense and tension leading up to the murder of the innocent old man by allowing us to experience the narrator’s own anxiety throughout the story. The anxiety derived from the feeling the narrator got when looking at the old man’s pale light blue filmed covered eye and ended with the uneasiness from the guilt subsequent to the tragic homicide of the old man. The eerie tone influences the poem and grants readers a better understanding of emotion and the mood by the authors word choice and content.
The content and conflict give meaning to the poem and affect how the audience interprets it. In Tell Tale Heart the main character tells the short story in his perspective. First person gives the audience a direct connection to the speaker’s deepest inner thoughts and emotions that character experiences. This creates a relationship between the readers and the speaker as a result, the readers can understand this unreliable first-person narrator. Due to his insanity, the audience are unable to know whether the information he provides is accurate. The inner conflict the main character has is his denial in his madness, the feelings he acknowledges and the guilt that engulfs him and makes him. The content and inner conflict of the narrator affects the story and gives meaning to it, this in turn helps the reader interpret Poe’s meaning.
Tell Tale heart by Edgar Allen Poe, expresses that guilt is a powerful motivating factor behind a human’s actions. Symbolism, tone, and the content of the poem all work together to create certain effects interpretations and meanings in the poem. This short story highlights that guilt overcomes the narrators mind and leads to the main characters confession of the crime he committed at the end of the story. The author portrays the main character and the impermanence of life through nature and her leaves with the colors changing due to the different stages of life. Poe expresses nature’s beauty and the effect that time has on it. Without the partnership and use of tone, symbolism and the tragic events, the short story would be ineffective and meaningless to the audience.
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