Symbolism in Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart Essay
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Symbolism in Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart In Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", the narrator claims that he is not "mad" but his behavior tells a different story. He is truly determined to destroy another male human being, not because of jealousy or animosity but because "one of his eyes resembled that of a vulture- a pale blue eye, with a film over it" (1206). The narrator sees the man with this ghastly eye as a threat to his well being, but it is he who is a menace to his own being. He kills the man with pride only to concede to his horrific crime due to his guilt-ridden heart. His heart is empty, except for the evil that exists inside which ultimately destroys him. The narrator insists that it his duty to kill the man…show more content…
The vulture dismembers the body, limb by limb, while the man baring real evil remains alive. The narrator achieves the ultimate victory and thinks "his eye would trouble me no more" (1208). It is four o'clock in the morning and there comes a knock at the door. The narrator "went down to open it with a light heart-for what had I now to fear?" (1208). He does not know that what he has to fear is not who is on the other side of the door; he has to fear himself. Three police officers appear at the door and he welcomes the men right in. They tell him that a loud scream has been heard by a neighbor during the night. He makes up a convincing story and feels confident in his triumph over the officers. They sit down and chat while the narrator becomes increasingly paranoid from the ringing he hears in his ears, or what he thinks is coming from his ears. It is actually the increasing guilt he is beginning to feel from within. The sound is "a low, dull, quick sound-much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton" (1209). The officers continue to talk and he prays that they will leave before they eventually hear the deafening sound. The narrator becomes erratic as the sound is now pervading the entire house. He is convinced that they know his secret; that he is the evil vulture who has killed the old man. He can no longer tolerate the agony that is going on inside him. The narrator
The Tell Tale Heart Symbolism: The Eye
The Eye in "The Tell Tale Heart" symbolizes the part of the narrator's identity that he refuses to accept or confront. Eyes are often viewed as representative of one's true nature, and as being able to reveal an aspect of one's personality that the other senses may hide. The narrator believes this is the case with his victim, believing the eye reveals something of the old man, that no one else was able to see. The narrator even reduces the old man's identity to his eye, when he states "I saw [the eye] with perfect distinctness...I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person;". The reader is able to realize, however, that it is not the old man, but the narrator himself that the eye represents. Looking at the words that the narrator uses to describe the eye prove this. The narrator describes the eye as "evil" and comparing it to that of a "vulture". These words, however, better describe the narrator. The narrator can be described as "evil" when without reason or motive, he kills the old man, dismembers his body, hides it under the floor, and even boldly allows the police to sit over the site of the old man's body, and converses with them. He can also be described as a "vulture" when like an animal he stalks his victim, relying on instinct, and forgetting all human qualities. It is also evident that the narrator has a problem accepting himself and his actions. The story opens with him rejecting the notion that he is crazy, and he remains adamant throughout. This problem accepting his identity also explains why, whenever he looks at the old man's eye he becomes angry, and why he felt the need to get rid of it.
The Tell Tale Heart Symbolism: The Lantern
The lantern in "The Tell Tale Heart" symbolizes the lack of insight on the part of the narrator, and acts as a support for his beliefs. Lanterns are objects that provide light, and light is often associated with uncovering truths. In this context, however, the lantern acts as an extension of the narrator's worldview, allowing him to see things as he sees them, and not necessarily as they are. It is interesting to note that the lantern remains dark most of the time, though the narrator uses it to guide him in a sense, pushing the lantern first through the door. Once the lantern is turned on,the light it emits does not show the old man as the kind human being the narrator describes him as in the beginning, but instead shows him as the "evil eye". The lantern actually aids the narrator in his intent to murder, and further reinforces his views toward the old man.
The Tell Tale Heart Symbolism: The Heart
The beating heart in "The Tell Tale Heart" symbolizes the human like aspect of the narrator. Throughout the story the narrator presents himself as an animal, void of any emotions, and lacking the ability to show sympathy. He takes pride in his act, in stalking the old man like an animal, and even brags about committing the perfect murder. He becomes human, however, when he begins to feel guilty about what he has done. He begins to hear the dead man's heart, and not being able to continue with the reminder of his deed, he confesses. The heart reveals his conscience, and after hearing it, it is the only time he is presented as having some sort of moral code.