SUMMARY An unnamed narrator opens the story byaddressing the reader and claiming that he isnervous but not mad. He says that he is going totell a story in which he will defend his sanity yetconfess to having killed an old man. A fear of theman’s pale blue eye is the reason of killing.Again, he insists that he is not crazy because hismeasured actions are not those of a madman.Every night, he went to the old man’s chamber.After a week of doing this, the narrator decidesthat the time is right to kill the old man.
On the eighth night, the old man wakes upand cries out. The narrator remains still. Heknows how frightened the old man is. Soon, thenarrator hears a dull pounding that heinterprets as the old man’s heartbeat. Worriedthat a neighbor might hear the loud noise, heattacks and kills the old man. He thendismembers the body and hides the piecesbelow the floorboards in the bedroom. Whenhe finishes his job, the narrator hears a knock atthe street door. The police have arrived, havingbeen called by a neighbour who heard the oldman shriek.
The narrator is careful to appear normal. Heleads the officers all over the house withoutacting suspiciously and even brings them into theold man’s bedroom to sit down and talk. Thepolicemen do not suspect anything. The narratoris comfortable until he starts to hear a lowpounding sound. He recognizes the low sound asthe heart of the old man coming from beneaththe floorboards. He panics, believing that thepolicemen must also hear the sound and know hisguilt. Very angry at the idea that they aremocking his agony, he confesses to the crime andshrieks at the men to rip up the floorboards.
SETTINGThe story is set in a house occupied by thenarrator and an old man.The time of the events in the story is probablythe early 1840s, when Poe wrote the story.The story covers a period of approximatelyeight days with most of the important actionoccurring each night around midnight.
CHARACTERSThe Narrator: He is an unnamed person whotries to convince the reader that he is not mad.Instead of pleading innocence, he tries toconvince his listeners that he is sane. Thenarrator describes his careful planning andmastery at deceiving others, priding himself onhis intelligence and the calculated nature of hiscrime and stating that a madman would nothave acted as brilliantly as he had done, since"madmen know nothing."
POINT OF VIEW The narration of the story is that of a first-person unreliable narrator. The narrator isobviously deranged, readers learn during histelling of his tale, even though he declares atthe outset that he is sane. The narrative isfiltered through the narrator’s mind. We callthe narrator unreliable because his telling ofthe story is twisted and his vision is distortedby his madness.
IRONY The characterization of the narrator is ironical.While he insists that he is sane, we know that he isindeed insane. A madman who is capable oflogical reasoning and planning is also ironical.All the time, the narrator thinks that the organ ofsight, the Evil Eye, is so vexing; but in the end, asound, the beating of the old mans heart, is whatcondemns the madman. The guarding against onedanger while being overcome by anotherconstitutes irony.