Edgar Allan Poe'sThe Telltale Heart is a psychological horror story about a madman that kills the old man who he lived with. There are few scary images, few chilling phrases, and yet it is still a frightening story. The reason that it is scary, even without the conventional methods, is the way it is told. There are elements of the story that make it frightening, even without clichÃÂ© phrases and bloody stab wounds.
One of the reasons that the story is frightening is that it is told in first person, this makes us identify with the murderer! It also makes us wonder whether or not the villain of the story wasn't right! Maybe this old man with the evil vulture eye deserved to die! Simply identifying with a murderer is quite frightening. Identifying a mad killer that chopped up a kind old man that he lived with is even more frightening.
By the killer's own admission, the old man had never been unkind, had never given him insult.
The first thing Poe does is establish that the speaker is mad, through the speaker's explanation of how he is not mad. The first sentence of the story shows a kind grim enthusiasm, as a child eagerly awaiting their candy. The murderer tries to prove to the reader that he is not mad. While a madman knows nothing, he was very wise about the matter. While a crazy person's madness dulls or eliminates their senses, his senses were heightened, so he was obviously not mad! He says that above all the sense of hearing was heightened. "Above all was the sense of heating acute. I heard all things in heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?" Here our killer explains his hearing.