One of Edgar Allan Poe’s most popular short stories with the media today, The Tell-Tale Heart, is a narrative of self-destruction. From the beginning, the narrator can be recognized as an untrustworthy source of information, especially with his proclomation: “but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them.”
It’s just like Egard Allan Poe, master of horror, to leave us at the mercy as a mad-man-narrator. But what really drove him insane is the beating of what the narrator thinks is the old man’s heart. “It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder, every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! — do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am.”
Sound of the Tell-Tale Heart – click to hear the heart!
However, this is where the narrator begins to give us false information. It is not the old man’s heart he hears beating after all, since it still beats when he is dead, but the beating of his own, tell-tale heart, which tells of his hideous deed.
I believe Poe reveals this to us when he has the narrator inform us, “for it was not the old man who vexed me but his Evil Eye.” I take the eye to be a pun (metonymy) on I, thus what is really driving the narrator crazy, is himself, as he stated in the first sentence of the story.
If you would like to read “The Tell-Tale Heart,” click here. (it will only take you 5-10 minutes to read and will leave you delightfully chilled).
I really wanted to find The Simpsons episode of a “Tell-Tale Heart,” even a tiny snippet, but surprisingly, it was no where to be found (I love The Simpsons Halloween episodes!). So instead, we must do with a 1953 short animated film that reminds me of The Nightmare Before Christmas with its use of Gothic neo-classical drawings. A very fine substitute; check it out!