whats the conflict in the Tell Tale Heart

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Does anyone know the CONFLICT in the Tell Tale Heart? I have to write a story map and thats what im missin.

-- Anonymous, November 09, 2000


The conflic in this story is actually quit basic. The young boy had a obseesion on the old man's eye. He did have a mediacla condition Monomanic i do velieve that's what it is called. You see any ways back to the story His obsion with the eye was because it haunted him so he set up a plan to stop it from him haunting him so basically the main cncept or CONFLICT is that it was a The young boy v.s Himself (mind).

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2000


Poe's story "The Tell Tale Heart" was first published in the Boston magazine, Pioneer, in January 1843. The owner of the magazine, James Russell Lowell, was familiar with Edgar Poe's work as a literary critic and accepted the tale, with two other pieces, after another magazine had rejected the story.

The story is a study in fear brought upon the narrator by a magnified sensitivity and overly acute awareness of his surroundings that is fed by a deranged imagination. Most acute was his sense of hearing for "I heard all things in the heaven and in the Earth. I heard many things in hell." As the tale begins, Poe reveals to us the madness that is consuming the narrator even as the narrator himself denies his insanity. Extremely agitated, he admits to a disease that has caused him to be "... dreadfully nervous" but that it had only "... sharpened my senses - not destroyed - not dulled them." He believes his intellectual faculties to be intact and argues that a madman could not so calmly relate the whole story as he is about to do.

The narrator's very denial is seen as an admission of this madness when he begins to discuss his motives for the murder of the old man he had loved. Clearly, this was Poe's intent. The narrator had no desire for his wealth and the old man had never wronged or insulted him. There was no passions he felt against the old man and no object of gain to be had by his death. Here and, apparently, for the first time the realization occurs to him that it was the old man's hideous eye, his vulture-like evil eye. This gives the reader the sense that the crime was an impulse driven by his mad imagination that had obscured rationality.

The narrator goes on to exquisitely detail the stealth and care he uses to enter the old man's room and for seven nights he remains undetected. On the eighth night, the old man stirs at a sound and is now wide awake, sitting up in bed, as the narrator releases a single beam of light from the lamp that falls upon the hideous blue orb of his vulture eye. At length, he is able to separate the eye from the old man by illuminating only the hideous and leaving the old man in the darkness, obscured and unseen. His senses heightened, his heart racing, the narrator believes he can hear the heartbeat of the old man and paints a graphically vivid picture of the terror the old man is suffering. He becomes enraged at the sight of the eye for he believes it to be the source of his own terror.

After killing the old man and dismembering the corpse, he places all the evidence under the floorboards of the old man's room and restores all things to normal. Satisfied that all appeared routine, cleaned, replaced and restored, the narrator, lighthearted after his heavy labors, hears a knock at the door where he finds three officers from the police. It seems a "shriek" had been heard and they were asked to investigate. Gleefully, the narrator enthusiastically allows a search and acts as a guide throughout the house. He revels in the security of the perfect crime by demonstrating [to the reader] that his misdeed is undetectable, unfathomable. In his supreme confidence that only madness allows, he invites the officers to sit and rest in the very room the corpse is hidden and places his own chair directly over the body.

As he calmly answers their questions to their satisfaction, he begins to tire, perhaps from his labors, and wishes them to leave. He grows pale, his head aches and he begins to hear a ringing in his ears. To hide his discomfort and cover the sounds, he becomes more animated and speaks louder until he realizes the sound is not in his ears. To cover the "... low, dull quick sound...", he speaks faster and louder and louder still until he begins to argue minor things and fling arms about in wild motions. Unaware of the sound, the police continued to chat while the sound grew only louder and louder. Persuaded now that the police suspected him and convinced that they could hear the horrible rhythmic sound, he also becomes convinced they are mocking his terror of discovery and, he, unable to bear their "... hypocritical smiles" any longer, shrieks - "Villains! dissemble no more! I admit the deed - tear up the planks! - here, here! - it is the beating of his hideous heart!"

The basic conflict, in my opinion, can be seen in the struggle between the narrator's intellect and his madness. While his intellect retains some control of reason and logic, allowing him to carry out his devious work of murder, his madness is in full control of his fertile imagination and obscures reality, feeds his base emotions and ultimately overwhelms his natural inhibitions.

While I do not mean to imply that Poe's biographer, Arthur H Quinn would concur with this interpretation, he makes an important point in his book "Edgar Allan Poe - A Critical Biography", where he characterizes this story as it relates to Poe's literary ideals. He says, "It is an almost perfect illustration of Poe's own theory of the short story, for every word contributes to the central effect."

I trust you will find this useful in some fashion and I offer it merely as one interpretation. I am sure there are many. There is an excellent summary on this story available at http://www.poedecoder.com by Ms. Martha Womak that may help as well. Best of luck.


-- Anonymous, November 11, 2000

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