The Tell-Tale… Something

ENGL 4110 “Commonplace Book” Entry 2

Another week in 4000-level literature classes means another iconic piece of literature that I somehow haven’t read before! This week, it was Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.

Personally, I thought it was fascinating, albeit a little bit disturbing. But that’s to be expected! It stays true to its Gothic roots, and as a bonus, it’s only about four pages long. For my free time’s sake, I was extremely happy about the latter.

One thing has been bothering me about the story since, though. As the title suggests, the heart [of the brutally murdered old man] tells the tale [of the truth — that the narrator killed him and hid his body under the floorboards]. But depending on how you read the story, the heart may or may not be actually beating. In fact, it seems like the narrator sort of told on himself in this case.

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! — tear up the planks! here, here! — It is the beating of his hideous heart!” (The Tell-Tale Heart)

Which is why I think it might make more sense for the story if it were called “The Tell-Tale Ears.” To be fair, that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. But to me, Poe’s story title only makes sense if the heart we are talking about is the narrator’s — the murderer’s.

After all, it seems to be his guilty conscience that gets him in the end. Perhaps he couldn’t take the guilt. So was the heartbeat he heard at the end the dead man’s?

Or was it his own?



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