The Tell-Tale Heart
by: Edgar Allan Poe
JUNE 24, 2008
Born into a family of two parents and two siblings in Boston on January 19, 1809.
Father: David Poe Mother: Elizabeth Arnold
Small time actors who could barely afford to live
Brother: William Henry Leonard Poe (older)
Date of birth unknown (thought to be between January 12 and February 22, 1807)
Was also a poet
Sister: Rosalie Poe (younger)
Born in December, 1810
His father abandoned his family in 1810, and his mother was due to die a year after of
Edgar Poe was taken into the house of John Allan, merchant of tobacco in Richmond,
without any of his siblings, who were taken into different homes. It is believed that the
Allan family treated Poe well, albeit that they refused to let him see William; even though
they didn’t formally adopt him, this is where Poe granted himself his middle name, Allan.
He attended the University of Virginia for a year.
Although the Allan family was quite well off as far as money goes, they did not provide
him with enough money to continue his studies. Poe was forced to gamble, lost heavily,
and so his gambling debts further separated him from the Allans.
He assumed the name of Henri Le Rennet (possibly after his brother Henry) and
moved to Boston in 1827 where he wrote Tamerlane and Other Poems.
Sadly, Poe was still poor, so he had no choice but to join the US Army (assumed the
name of Edgar A. Perry). He achieved the rank of Sergeant Major after two years of
In 1829, Fracis Allan, Poe’s foster mother died. This event led to Poe’s foster father to
attempt to settle his differences with Poe upon a dying wish. John Allan was able to
allow Poe to enter the US Military Academy at West Point.
In 1830, Poe attended West Point without “making up” with his foster father. John
Allan later disowned after constant arguments of his second marriage.
Poe was sent to military court for protesting and not attention his classes at West
Secretly married his cousin, Virginia, in 1835, and then publicly announced the ritual
In 1842, his cousin-wife broke a blood vessel which led Poe to become an avid drinker
due to stress.
In 1847, Virginia died from tuberculosis. This event led Poe to become quite unstable,
and he began to drink even more so than in 1842.
The plot line of this story is not much like that of
other short stories- it is not a normal distribution
Exposition-> rising action-> climax->
falling action-> resolution.
It is more along the lines of a roller coaster
Exposition-> rising action-> climax->
falling action-> rising action-> climax->
falling action-> resolution
It all begins with a man who tells us that he shall
prove to us how he cannot be a madman for madman
cannot think logically. The man then takes us on an
extended flashback that lasts either throughout the
story (if he’s sitting in a prison cell explaining this to
us) or until the last few paragraphs (if he’s thinking
this as he hears the heart beats). Disregarding the
primary setting, the flashback takes place in The
Victim’s home. The Murderer narrates how logical
and precise his plan was.
He begins by slowly spying on The Victim’s vulture eye
every night until, on the eighth night, he finally decides
to enter the room. After a series of drawbacks, such as
The Victim’s waking up, he succeeds in killing The Victim
and hiding his body. Shortly afterwards, three policemen
show up as his door and explain to him that they had
gotten a report of a man screaming. The policemen check
his house and find nothing, and then they politely sit in
The Victim’s room to chat. The Murderer begins to hear
the heartbeat of The Victim and ultimately snaps; he
declares that he is responsible for the man’s death, and
the story ends.
Some may call him a madman, some may call him
perfectly sane- a man with a plan. He works for
victim, or at least aids him from time to time. The
Murderer attempts to prove his sanity by narrating
this tale. It is possible that he believes that The Victim
is constantly doubting him, and stares him down.
One can assume that this man is quite rich; because,
The Murderer had no desire for his “gold.” One could
also say that The Victim is not arrogant in the last for
“he had never wronged” The Murderer. It is possible
that his man is old, for there could be little other
reason as to why he’d allow someone in his house at
the late hours of day.
The Victim’s eye lead him to his death.
Not much is known about this character, only that he had
called the policemen to The Victim’s humble home.
Three hearty fellows who went to The Victim’s home for a
report, but stayed to chat after investigating.
Point of View
This story is narrated in first person point of view.
“I, he, she, they, etc.”
It is narrated by The Murderer
The story takes place in The Victim’s home in the
duration of eight days.
This story can be considered a very long flashback, for
The Murderer switches from present to past tense.
The narrator focuses on the hours of the night,
The Murderer begins by introducing himself as a
completely sane fellow.
He begins to prove himself sane by saying that a
madman could never have pulled off what he had
done. No madman could plan things so very carefully.
The narrator the explains why he did it- the Evil Eye.
He explains that he did not do his deed out of spite or
for money, but because the Evil Eye haunted him.
The first rising action occurs when The Murderer
begins to constantly check on The Victim during
The Murderer carefully opens the door every night, very
slowly. He very carefully opens that door as if possessed by a
deity of precision.
One can say that the second incident in which the
tension builds up is when The Policemen show up.
They begin searching the house, and the reader might expect
them to find the corpse of The Victim.
The first climax can be when The Victim hears The
The Victim begins to console himself by saying that it must
have been some type of critter, but refuses to return to his
The second climax is when the beating heart of The
Victim replays itself within The Murder’s mind.
The Murderer begins to speak more loudly to The Policemen in
order to dry out the noise.
Although this story contains two climaxes, it only
contains one falling action.
The second climax leads to the resolution, rather than a falling
It is when The Murderer finally kills The Victim and
proceeds to hide the body.
He hides it underneath the wooden floor- so well, that not even
the Evil Eye could have noticed.
After the beating heart reruns enough times, The
Murderer finally snaps. He admits to the crime, for he
cannot bear the beating heart any longer.
He believes that The Policemen can hear the beating heart of
The Victim, and that they are simply mocking him while
speaking to each other.
The only true external conflict is between The Victim
and The Murderer.
The Murderer uses physical strength to kill The
Victim and to hide his body.
The story begins with an internal conflict as The
Murderer tries to convince himself of his sanity.
Never quite resolved, for The Murderer seems to be debating
his sanity until the very end.
Later we see that The Murderer keeps thinking about
whether or not he should kill The Victim.
Resolved when he decides to kill him on the eighth night.
Another internal conflict is when The Murderer
begins to hallucinate the beating of The Victim’s
Resolved when he admits to his crime.
Murderers cannot truly sleep at night due to extended
Do keep your doors locked and try not to trust people
to stay in your home after you’re asleep.
A rhetorical question is a figure of speech meant not
to ask a question, but rather to spark readers into
thinking about a subject- concur or deny.
The short story opens up with The Murderer asking us
questions that he obviously does not want us to
“Am I mad?” he asks, but he truly means, “I will show
you why I cannot be mad, simply try and disagree
with my absolute logic.”
Similes and Metaphors
Similes and metaphors are both figures of speech that are
used to describe something by comparing it with
something else. Similes use the words “like” or “as” while
metaphors do not.
The most commonly used metaphor is the one of
comparing the man’s eye with the eye of a vulture,
powerful birds that usually eat corpses.
Poe uses a simile when describing his opening of the door
when spying on The Victim.
“So I opened it --you cannot imagine how stealthily,
stealthily --until, at length a simple dim ray, like the
thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell
full upon the vulture eye.”
For a lack of a better term, I will point out that this
story used only about five phrases spoken by
It is odd for short stories not to have dialogues.
quot;It is nothing but the wind in the chimney --it is only a
mouse crossing the floor,” is used to show the fear of
An archaic term that means “to listen” or “pay heed to what I’m
The school teacher shouted, “Hearken!” while giving a lecture
to the student who was sleeping on his desk; consequentially,
she also dropped a 10lb. book on the side of the desk that was
not occupied by his face.
To hold one’s self back
The man being tortured for information refrained from
showing fear to his enemies and, shortly after he could not
bear the pain, bit his lip.
An agreeable quality
The young mediator showed great suavity as he tried to form
an agreement between the two parties.
The Murderer seems to be unable to sleep shortly
after he becomes aware of the vulture’s eye. Although
I have no killer instincts, I too cannot sleep at night
much. This may be partially due to my addiction to
electronics, or perhaps it truly is something that I
Often when I do something, I will continuously think
about the event for several hours. This may be
another reason as to why I do not sleep much, but,
irregardlessly, I will overanalyze a situation until it is
At times, I regret things that I do. This is mostly when
I cannot fully rationalize my actions. I will then
apologize as to attempt to rid myself of the annoyance
that is regret— much how The Murderer confessed as
to rid himself of the beating of the heart.
This story takes the reader on a journey through an
unstable man’s murdering scheme. Not only does it
show us how confident humans can be of their
abilities and how easily one can plan things
scientifically, but it also shows us how human
emotion and regret can get the better of us.