Character and Point of View in "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Essay by bobthemoose90 July 2006

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Using first person point of view is significant in that it allows the reader to engage in the thoughts of the narrator and, thus, make a conclusion about his or her character. In Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," the reader can conclude based on the thoughts and remarks of the narrator that he is deranged and suffers from symptoms similar to those of paranoid schizophrenia. The narrator reveals his anxiety toward the reader and other characters several times throughout the story. For instance, he begins the story inquiring, "How then am I mad?" and states, "observe how healthily--how calmly I can tell you the whole story" (Paragraph 1). The narrator attempts to prove his sanity when the reader has not yet had the opportunity to make any kind of judgement. In addition, the narrator claims to be so distraught with the old man's evil eye that he has decided to commit murder (Paragraph 2).

Perhaps the narrator suspected that the man's eye could see the narrator, as he really was - a mad man! Other signs of paranoia are present when the narrator states that the policemen were mocking his horror, when in actuality they knew nothing of the crime (Paragraph 17). The narrator experiences auditory hallucinations, another symptom of schizophrenia, when he claims to hear the old man's beating heart. For instance, he states, "the beating grew louder, louder...the sound would be heard by a neighbor" (Paragraph 11). It is physically impossible for a heartbeat to be heard at such lengthy distances. However, it is possible for the narrator to mistake this sound with the beating of his own heart. Finally, the narrator suffers from extreme mood changes, again similar to that of a schizophrenic. This change in mood is reflected in the narrator's speech pattern. As the...