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    The Insanity of the Narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart

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    Some people could argue that the narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe was completely insane. Other’s would argue otherwise. However, one looks at it, it all depends on how “Insane” is defined. The layman’s version of the term is to be “in a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill” in which case the definition is one-hundred percent true. Another common rendition was coined by Albert Einstein who declared the state of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” which, in truth, doesn’t make all that much sense.

    The narrator’s behavior was far from normal, as can already be seen. His entire rationale for murdering the old man was simply because he felt spooked because the man had “the eye of a vulture” (The Tell-Tale Heart). The narrator did not do it for personal gain; He even writes “I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire.” (The Tell-Tale Heart). His perception of morals is askew and proves he has no self- control. Therefore, by the first definition, his actions prove him to be legitimately insane.

    The second definition of insanity, by Albert Einstein, doesn’t quite make sense with the story. It is defined as ” doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Most would agree that murder can’t be achieved on the same person multiple times by the same person simply because after the first success, they are dead. Attempted murder would also be difficult to try multiple times, as they would probably catch on after the first one. Aside from that, the narrator attempted once and, unfortunately for the old man, he succeeded. Since he only tried it once, Einstein definition is void of relevance. Although the narrator states ” This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead.” This shows how he shows no signs of remorse as long as no one knows, this is also an example of abnormal behavior.

    The only real argument for why the narrator is not insane would be that he has a reason for murdering the old man. Had the man been a killer himself, or a thief, or perhaps even suicidal and had requested death, then most would agree that he should not be deemed insane. The thought that someone would kill another because of the way they look doesn’t even seem to happen often, or even at all in modern times. The only logical explanation would be if the narrator was mentally ill.

    How one defines insanity creates the thin line between roaming the streets and being put in a mental hospital. The narrator of The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe is clearly insane by common definition. He is unstable in the head and on several occasions he displays such a trait. He murdered an old man for simply how he looked, and felt no remorse from the act. His behavior is unlike the common human, and his perception is extremely askew.

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    The Insanity of the Narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. (2022, Nov 30). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/the-insanity-of-the-narrator-in-edgar-allan-poes-the-tell-tale-heart/

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