Edgar Allan Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart What Should the Killer's Punishment Be? In Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, the narrator describes the brutal murder of his roommate, while constantly pleading his case of sanity. Through this, we come to realize that the narrator is nothing other than insane. Although the narrator is insane, he committed a grotesque murder and should pay for what he did. In a case like this, although the person is insane, you want to give them a cruel and unjust sentence, like the cruel and unjust murder they committed. Criminals and insane people are both a threat to themselves and society but in different ways, which is why there is jail for criminals and insane asylums for psychopaths.
The Tell-Tale Heart illustrates the human spirit of the narrator as a mysterious and inexplicable force. After reading the first paragraph of the story, I have already decided that the narrator is, in fact, insane.
"I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell" (Poe 1). Anyone who earnestly states that they heard things in heaven and hell clearly is not in their right mind. The narrator then tries proving his sanity due to the fact that he can tell the whole story calmly; this in fact does the opposite. Anyone who can tell the story of police coming in the middle of the night about a murder calmly is strange. "Hearken! And observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story" (Poe 1). So far, everything he says proves that he is insane.
The perpetrator states clearly that he enjoys the act of killing. "In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him, I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far gone" (Poe 2). Not only does he kill the old man because of an infected eye, but he also dismembers the body. He also brags of how neat he was and seems very proud of this. He is clearly not in his right mind; his acts are shocking. When the police arrive, the narrator invites them in for coffee, where they drink the coffee in the roommates' room right above the dead, mangled body. Anyone who was trying to get away with murder clearly would not do any of the above.
I have concluded that the narrator is guilty, but is also insane. What should his punishment be? If it were someone who was not insane I would say capital punishment. Maybe even a slow and painful death. However, this man technically cannot tell right from wrong; he has no control over his thoughts or behavior. So, how do we punish him for something he may not even be consciously aware that he did? People who are legally insane are unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of their conduct at the time of the murder. As a result, I think he should be sent to an insane asylum for the remainder of his life.
Although I would like to say that he should be chopped up into little pieces as he did to his roommate, it simply is not feasible. According to law, he must go to an insane asylum where they can attempt to treat him for his illness. Statistically, people who commit these grotesque murders usually remain in the asylum for as long as they would in jail. These people are a severe threat to themselves and to others, which is why they should be under the care of trained professionals at all times. In conclusion, I think the narrator should remain in an insane asylum for the rest of his life where psychiatrists can constantly pick his brain; that should be punishment enough!