Friday, February 6, 2009
So we all know the story of The Tell-Tale Heart, right? The crazy neighbor decides to kill the old man next door, simply because he has a creepy, vulture eye. After he kills him, he shows the police around the apartment, to let them know nothing is wrong - except he starts hearing the dead guy's heart beating through the boards in the floor.
This is, of course, a master tale by a master storyteller, but the best part of this story isn't the actual story - it is the narrator, calmly informing the reader that he ISN'T, in fact, crazy.
"True! - nervous - very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am! but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses - not destroyed - not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily - how calmly I can tell you the whole story."
Poe has written a spot-on description of a mentally ill man, down to the auditory hallucinations and the perfectly illogical reasoning for killing someone. As the narrator describes, in chilling detail, exactly how he procedes with his crime, he appears perfectly reasonable, and yet it becomes more and more clear that he is not.
Once again, Poe sets his mood brilliantly, culminating with the narrator shining his flashlight on the old man's open eye. His use of dashes and exclamation points heighten the crazed effect of the story, until the reader is almost breathless, along with the narrator, by the end of the story.
In my anthology, The Tell-Tale Heart is a mere four pages long, but Poe can sure do an awful lot in that short span.
Next week's selection will be another short story, The Black Cat.
Poe Fridays is hosted by Kristin of We Be Reading - stop by and check it out!