Essay: Irrationality of Man in "The Tell-Tale Heart

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Irrationality of Man in "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Edgar Allen Poe is one of the most creative writers when it comes to expressing the irrationality of man. He does this by creating colorful narrators that pull us in with interesting dialogue and questionable actions. He emphasizes the irrational by placing readers into the mind of a man that thinks he is rational by all accounts. Readers want to believe the narrator is sane because he is human. Poe creates suspense by bring the narrator's irrationality into the story slowly. The narrator in this tales wants to be rational and we want to believe he is rational but as the story goes on, we realize we are dealing with a very unstable man. By the end of the tale, we are afraid for ourselves because we do not know the limits of our own minds. Poe uses the human mind to create suspense and, eventually, horror to entertain readers.

Poe amplifies fear in readers by putting them into the mind of the narrator. In "The Tell-tale Heart," we know the narrator's thoughts and we believe he is not crazy, mad, or irrational because he tells us he is not. We give him the benefit of the doubt because we want to believe him but also because he seems rational at the beginning of the story. In the beginning of the story, we find the narrator seems to have his senses together. He boasts about his mental acuity, saying, it "sharpened my senses -- not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute" (Poe 189). He is convinced that the things that make him appear irrational are making him smarter and sharper than usual. The power of the mind is pulled into question with interesting behavior.

Poe uses the very thing that makes his narrator seem rational to prove him irrational. It is the same dialogue but it changes as the story progresses. The narrator becomes more unstable the more he talks and this creates more drama for the reader. The narrator's motive for killing the old man is an "Evil Eye" (189), which is the first clue that something might be amiss with our narrator. This instability increases suspense as the story moves forward. Furthermore, the more we read, the more irrational this man becomes. When he says he hears the old man's beating heart, we know he is not playing with a full deck. When he watches the man sleep, the sounds of his breathing remind our narrator of a "groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief -- oh no! -- it was the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Irrationality of Man in "The Tell-Tale Heart.  (2011, February 20).  Retrieved November 17, 2019, from

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"Irrationality of Man in "The Tell-Tale Heart."  February 20, 2011.  Accessed November 17, 2019.