Story Review: Tell-tale Heart


Mia Carranza, Contributor

Imagine a person being murdered for the way his creepy eye looked.

The short story, The Tall-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allen Poe illustrates the story of a twisted caretaker killing an old man over the way his eye appeared.

Every night for a week, the caretaker stalked the old man while he slept, plotting and planning his perfect murder. While there are no questions that the caretaker, who is the narrator of the story, committed the act, in a modern courtroom, there is a possibility that he might not be found guilty of murder. Legally, a mentally insane person is not held criminally responsible for his actions and is instead institutionalized.

In this specific case, the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” should be convicted of his crime because it was clearly premeditated and he thoughtfully concealed the body.

To begin, the narrator should be held criminally responsible with proper punishment because the murder was premeditated. In the story, the narrator eerily states  “I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him” (Poe 90). This quote reveals that the narrator thought and planned out the murder of the old man. Every night while the man was sleeping, the narrator would sneakily enter his room to watch him sleep. The sight of the disturbing, veiny sleeping eye on these nightly visits reinforced his conviction that the old man had to die. He was never emotional as he thought about the planned murder, instead, the caretaker felt justified and powerful. The killer continued his premeditation with plans to conceal the dead body underneath the floorboards in the musty chamber.

Another reason to support that the caretaker should be held criminally responsible is because he concealed the body.

In the story, the narrator clearly states  “I admit the deed!–tear up the planks!–here, here!–it is the beating of his hideous heart!” (Poe 94).

From this quote, it is obvious that he committed an awful crime. That tragic night the narrator hid the body under the floor in the old man’s room. He didn’t have a disease, instead, he was incensed by adrenaline from the thought of doing something tragically bad wrong. This quote also shows that the narrator knew what he was doing. The police started to make him really anxious, which made him think that the dead old man’s heart was beating. Which led him to turn himself in, and show where he hid the body.

Some critics might suggest the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” should not be convicted of his crime because he was insane when he committed it. They might believe this to be true because the caretaker killed a man because he was disgusted and vexed him. While these critics make a valid point, their reasoning is flawed since the narrator knew what he did was wrong, but carried out the murder despite it.

Furthermore, this fact is made clear when the narrator thought, “I then replaced the board so cleverly so cunningly, that no human eye– not even his–could have detected anything wrong” (Poe 93). Thus, the narrator is obviously guilty because he knew the murder was wrong, confessed to the crime, and led the police to the body. Legal insanity means that at the time of the crime, the killer couldn’t distinguish fantasy from reality. The narrator listened to the old man’s heartbeat to ensure it stopped, confirming that he knew the suffocation would kill him, proving that the narrator was living in reality and not fantasy. Additionally, he was able to control his behavior and emotions throughout the premeditated murder, which characterizes a sane person.

It is clear that the narrator is mentally sane and needs to be convicted of his gruesome crime.

Ultimately, the crime was deliberate because the narrator carefully thought out and planned the murder. Additionally, he cautiously concealed the corpse beneath the old, creaky planks. Obviously, the narrator had a moral compass because he knew ending the old man’s life was illegal. Jurors are urged to find the defendant guilty of his crime since he’s blatantly a cold-blooded killer.