Themes and message

Sanity and insanity

The main theme of the short story is the difference between being sane and insane. The whole account by the narrator is motivated by his wish to prove his sanity. He considers that his actions are too rational and carefully planned to be those of a madman. In his view, mad people are not able to keep calm and premeditate murders: “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)

Although he tries to appeal to reason, the narrator admits he has no motive to kill the old man. He just develops an obsession with his eye: “He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this!” (p. 154, ll. 8-11) He also relies on instincts rather than rationality: “for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot” (p. 156, ll. 25-26).

Furthermore, the narra...

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