In-depth analysis of some of the most popular short stories including summaries, character analysis, narrative technique, symbolism and much more.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Character Analysis: The Tell Tale Heart

Character Analysis The Tell Tale Heart
A Tell Tale Heart

Character Analysis: Unnamed Narrator

The unidentified narrator is also the main character in "The Tell Tale Heart.One of the most intense characters of all time, his mental state is shocking yet strangely magnetic, taking the reader to  the rarely visited mind of the insane. He is a highly dynamic character, constantly shifting from one mental state to another. When analyzing this character, the first question that has to be asked is, was he truly mentally insane? While many may say that he is definitely mentally unstable, the answer highly depends on the context within which one defines insanity, within which one decides to analyze this character. From the psychological standpoint he seems to be suffering from paranoia and narcissism. He constantly brags about his "acuteness of the senses", how well he was able to carry out his crime, and he does not acknowledge the human attributes of his victim, instead reducing him to an eye.  He states "I saw [the eye] with perfect distinctness...I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person;". The strongest evidence of his insanity is shown when he believes he is hearing the dead man's beating heart. The reader knows he wasn't really hearing it, because the other people in the room (the police officers), heard nothing. The reader realizes that the sound of the beating heart is actually inside his head.

Analyzing this character from a legal standpoint may lead to a different conclusion. Analyzing from this context is appropriate since he does seem to be retelling his story to the authorities.
In the context of legal insanity, one would generally need to prove that they were unaware of the consequences of their action. states "The traditional test of insanity in criminal cases is whether the accused knew 'the difference between right and wrong' following...England." It could be argued that he did grasp the concept of right and wrong, and that he did understand fully the consequences of his actions. The extreme lengths he took to hide the body, dismembering the old man, and placing him under the floor is evidence of this. As is his guilt, which eventually overwhelmed him, as evidenced by his hearing the dead man's heart. It is highly likely that had the reader been given the chance to see how the story progressed, he would have been labelled a murderer and not insane.

Character Analysis A Tell Tale Heart
Edgar Allan Poe

Character Analysis: The Old Man

Very little is known of the old man that was murdered by the narrator. What we know of him is based on what the narrator tells us. The narrator himself believes he may have been a nice individual, saying "He had never wronged me." He does, however, also state that the man may have been evil due to his eye. It should be noted that the narrator's view is highly unreliable, and therefore we will never know the true character of the old man.

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