Annotated Essay

The word “true” at the beginning of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” enlightens the reader at once to the fact that the speaker is admitting something to someone. The reader doesn’t know what yet or to whom the speaker is speaking, but at once you know that someone has been asking a question of the speaker. The speaker then goes on to tell what he is admitting or confessing. He is speaking of how he has been and is nervous. The speaker is admitting to the fact that he is nervous but not mad. He doesn’t believe he is mad and sets out to prove this, albeit unsuccessfully, for as the reader goes on, the speaker starts telling of some things that one should not be thinking or “hearing” in the speaker’s case.

The disease, which he is speaking of is his nervousness. The nervousness, he tells, has improved his senses. The best sense, according to him, that he now possesses is hearing. He is now able to “hear” all things. Not only is he able to hear all things on earth but in heaven and hell as well. This is his evidence for not being mad. He believes that this new found ability of his, to “hear,” is more than enough evidence for him not being mad. He then hearkens the recipient of his story to the rest of his evidence of not being mad by telling his story very calmly. His fear of being thought of as mad is evident and is repeated many times with him trying to prove that he is not mad. This is probably because he knows that the person or persons to whom he is speaking believe him to be mad.

The speaker then tells of how he got the idea to murder an old man. He at first doesn’t know how he got this idea and tells that he had no prior wish to commit the murder. Then as he starts to think about it, he arrives at the absurd conclusion that it was the old man’s eye that caused him to commit the murder and then becomes sure of it. He then describes how hideous he found the eye to be. He then goes on to describe how fear stricken he became whenever it fell upon him. The eye that the man speaks of is a symbol of the evil eye, which brings bad luck to any who are unfortunate enough to come across it. He then sees that the only way to get rid of the “evil” eye would be to take the life of the old man.

Poe used syntax very well. Each sentence leads up to the next part of the story. It is a story that goes back in time. This is evident because the speaker says that he wants the one to whom he is speaking to understand how he cannot possibly be mad. When he tells his story of how calmly he committed his murder and with such precision, he constantly reverts to the past. What is also important about the story is that the speaker doesn’t return to the present but becomes immersed in his tale. It is not needed within the story to return to the present because the reader knows that the speaker is in fact mad, despite the speaker’s attempt to eradicate that theory.

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