The main character of the short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe is an unnamed narrator. The old man and the police officers are less important to the story, so we will focus on the narrator in this section.

The narrator

There is no explicit outer characterisation of the narrator. His name, age, or occupation are not mentioned. We cannot even be certain of his gender, though we have chosen to assume that he is male because of his reference to madmen: “Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing” (p. 155, l. 3).

Inner characterisation

The narrator of the story is a troubled person who has killed an old man he has been living with. In his account of the events, he tries to explain why and how he murdered the old man to prove he is not mad.

The narrator is convinced he is not insane and tries to prove it by explaining what he did and contrasting it with what he thinks madmen are like: “How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily -how calmly I can tell you the whole story” (p. 154, ll. 5-6); “Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded -with what caution -with what foresight -with what dissimulation I went to work!” (p. 155, ll. 3-6)

However, the narrator is under the impression that he possesses heightened senses that resemble supernatural abilities:​ “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” (p. 154, ll. 3-5).

He argues for his sanity by claiming that he is calm and that he was able to maintain rationality and to plot and kill the old man: “It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this?” (p. 155, ll. 13-15); “If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body.” (p. 157, ll. 9-10)

His attitude towards the old man is contradictory. He sees his victim from two perspectives. On the one hand, he admits he loves the old man who has done nothing to up...

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