Singnificance of the Evil Eye : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

What is the meaning behind the "Evil Eye" of the old man in the story "A tell-tale heart?

-- Anonymous, April 29, 2000


could you be a little more specific?

-- Anonymous, May 02, 2000


Generally, The notion that some people possess some form of malevolent ability to induce evil or harm simply by staring at a subject is rooted in ancient mythology and has been around for millennia. These beliefs pervade almost all cultures at some point, and to some degree, in history. Traditionally, those most susceptible to this form of evil were thought to be children but no one was safe from its threat unless they wore protection in the form of an amulet or necklace.

Most notably it is found in the Arabic culture and many of those cultures in the Mediterranean Basin (Sicilian) and Northern Africa (Sudan and Ethiopia). It has been said that the origins of these myths may have begun in ancient Egypt with Horus, the God of the sky, of light and of goodness, whose left eye was the moon and right eye was the sun. Horus was often depicted as an eye in Egyptian symbols and also as a man with the head of a Falcon.

Through the centuries these superstitions have become distorted and vague and often manifest themselves as base prejudices, particularly in mixed cultures. Similar to the superstition combined with religious fanaticism and intolerance in New England that led to witch burning in Salem back in the 1700s, superstitious ignorance often led to the bias and unreasonable fear of those that suffered from mental or physical handicaps. In some cultures, a person who was cross-eyed would have been viewed as evil while in other cultures they may have been looked upon as someone blessed by God.

Many of Poes contemporaries also used this evil eye as a literary device to suggest fear or terror. Charles Dickens used it in A Christmas Carol to characterize Scrooge, the mean spirited old miser and Herman Melville used it to great effect in Tyree to convey a sense of fear and loathing for sharks because of their large, black, empty eyes. In the story, The Tell Tale Heart, Poe uses this unwarranted fear of the vulture eye as a rationalization in the mind of the narrator, who attempts to convince us he is obviously sane but merely suffers a disease that results in hypersensitivity, especially in his sense of hearing. It is in the second paragraph where he tells us why he kills the old man. Here he intentionally excludes all other motives for murder and focuses on the old mans eye, for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye.

In the second paragraph, he clarifies, It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees -- very gradually --I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

This paragraph clearly establishes his unwarranted and unreasonable fear and loathing of the evil eye, a mere physical handicap of the old man, perhaps suffering from cataracts or an old injury from years before. Personally, I am somewhat skeptical that the fear of evil really plays a part in this murder but, traditionally, this has been the interpretation of many critics. Hatred and loathing has many motivations besides fear and while I may have a difficult time demonstrating it, I believe his hatred was born of utter revulsion at the sight of the old mans affliction.

One thing that should be remembered is that the premise of the tale is for the reader to understand the precarious balance between the madness and sanity of the narrator. Interpreted by the narrator as heightened sensitivity due to an illness, he hears . all things in heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? For him, his deceit, his stealth and his meticulous and unassailable approach to murder clearly demonstrates his sanity. Yet, to us, the reader, we recognize his madness early n the story and it is confirmed for us when he is betrayed by the beating of his own heart.

-- Anonymous, May 02, 2000


Tis is correct once more. he has the right idea. i cant follow up on this question

-- Anonymous, October 04, 2000

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