The short story The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, starts with the narrator muttering to himself and the audience. The narrator begins to talk about the old man with a vulture’s eye (evil eye) who makes the narrator’s blood run cold. The narrator very gradually comes up with a plan to kill the old man. The narrator kills the old man by suffocating him to death and ultimately ridding himself of the evil eye. Next, the narrator chops up the body of the old man and hides him in the floorboards of the house. The police end up at the old man’s house because a neighbor heard a shriek during the night-time and the police need to search the premises. The narrator is trying to stay calm, but he keeps hearing the heart-beat of the old man (even though he is dead) so ultimately, he can’t stand hearing the old man’s heart-beat any more, so he tells the police to Tear up the planks! “here, here! The narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart most likely suffers from Schizophrenia, which can be seen when the narrator has delusions, hallucinations, and exhibits mental instability. Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. The story ultimately deals with the narrator’s delusions and the narrator’s mind that is slowly unraveling and going mad.
Delusions are false beliefs that are not based in the real world and are one of the many symptoms of Schizophrenia (Schizophrenia). One place where the narrator suffers from a delusion is when he sees the old man’s eye. The narrator explains I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture “a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so, by degrees ” very gradually “I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever (Poe 68) In this example, the narrator is explaining that the old man’s evil eye is the sole reason for murder. This is another example of a delusion. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers “of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. (Poe,69) This is a delusion because of all the joy and craziness the narrator feels as the narrator watches the old man through the cracked door. With all these delusions the narrator is having, it is a sure sign the narrator has Schizophrenia.
Hallucinations involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. I felt that I must scream or die! -and now-again!-hark! louder! louder louder louder!- (Poe,72) This example is saying the narrator is hearing the heart-beat of a dead man which is a hallucination.
This is another example in which the narrator is having the same hallucination as earlier. It was a low, dull, quick sound “much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton and yet the officers heard it not (Poe,72). In fact, the old man is dead, and the narrator is suffering from an auditory hallucination. The officers do not hear the sound either, further confirming the narrator’s delusion. Basically, all the examples of the old man’s heart beating even when the old man is dead are all examples of hallucinations.
The narrator is suffering from a hallucination and he starts the story, he is saying this as a preface before we hear what really happened that night which is why he explains Why will you say I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses”not destroyed”not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Harken! and observe how healthily”how calmly”I can tell you the whole story. (Poe,68.) The narrator is crazy here which is what mental instability means. The narrator is so crazy, the narrator thinks to tell the story of the old man’s killing to prove he isn’t crazy. In doing this, he is crazy to think the audience will believe him and not think he is a lunatic and a nut-case. Another case where he displays mental instability is when he is talking about Death, in approaching him, had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel. (Poe 70). This is an obsession with death which in turn leads to mental instability.
In this story, the narrator is clearly dealing with Schizophrenia and I have shown you 3 symptoms to display the fact that he does have Schizophrenia.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Tell-Tale Heart. The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp.68-72.
Schizophrenia. Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443. 1 November 2018.
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