Poe manages to create a realistic vision of an insane narrator by using a range of various methods. For instance, in “The Tell-Tale Heart” Poe makes use of light and darkness, the description of the man’s eye and the time frame to make the story more scary than anything else: “I put in a dark lantern all closed, closed so that no light shone out”. This creepiness of the story indicates the madness of the narrator to the reader.
Furthermore, Poe gives the reader the impression that the narrator is very intelligent, deceptive and somewhat charming. For example he says “They sat, and while I answered cheerily”. This shows that he is putting on a good front for the police and making them believe he is normal. His intelligence makes him even more dangerous and worrying because of what he is capable of doing.
Moreover, during the story the central character is constantly trying to convince the reader that he is not insane. However the more you go on, the more you realise that he is mad: “I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever”. This shows that he is incredible obsessive and clearly confused in his mind, which is a sign of madness. The insane obsession he gets with the old man’s eye takes over his mind and leads him to murder.
In addition, the graphical and intense descriptions help you enter the narrator’s mind “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”. When he describes it, one can only have the feel of disgust just imaging it as you get the impression that the eye looks as if it is dead, maybe this is why the narrator feels that he has the right to kill the man.
Furthermore, Poe uses long sentences for explaining things like when the narrator tells you about his preparations to kill the man but Poe creates short sentences for the exciting parts of the story, for example: “It was the beating of the old man’s heart”. This makes parts of the play dramatic and fast paced. Poe also uses broken up sentences, which may symbolise the breaking up of the narrator’s mind and additionally he manages to vary the pace of the story quite skilfully creating a slow build up to the most dramatic parts: “I kept quite still and said nothing”. This shows the narrator while he waits to kill the old man. Poe makes the tension rise and fall so that you keep wanting to read on. Likewise, the rhythm is also varied to emphasise the tension.
Later, the narrator’s paranoia develops and takes over as he begins to imagine the beating of the old man’s heart after he is dead. This is impossible so it is likely that it is his own heart as he gets more and more fearful when the police do not leave and he thinks that they suspect him of the murder: “louder, louder! It is the beating of his heart”. Poe uses suspense to make the reader’s heart beat faster particularly at this point.
Moreover, the narrator admits he is ‘nervous’ and has a mental condition. However, he does not feel that he is mad but just feels that his senses have sharpened. This shows that he is in denial and is paranoid because it is probable that he is now based in a mental asylum and he believes he shouldn’t be there and is trying to prove his sanity. This shows that he is somewhat delusional indicating that his grip on reality is not good. Poe shows that the narrator clearly has violent mood-swings: “I have heard things in heaven and things in hell”. This is another sign of his descent into madness.
Additionally, the narrator is shown to be skilled in subterfuge: “every night, I turned the latch of his door and opened it oh so gently!” This shows that he plans everything with trickery and is careful not to wake the old man. The way he carries this out is very creepy: “a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye”. What’s more, the narrator says that the man was quite close to him which may be indicating that he was his father. This makes him even more sinister as you just can’t imagine how heartless he must be to kill someone he loves in cold blood. The fact that the narrator appears to be normal on the surface while he secretly has evil thoughts is frightening because it shows that anyone could easily hide their true feelings.
Furthermore, the narrator is shown to be very arrogant as he appears to show off about how good his plan is to kill the man: “very profound indeed”. This shows that the narrator is an exhibitionist, which makes out that he is not a very nice person. He is crafty and boastful of his power to kill: “I felt the extent of my own powers –of my sagacity” This is sick, especially when he tortures the old man: “I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror”. This shows that the narrator enjoys his influence over the man’s life and gloats over his terror. The groan seems likely to have come from his own voice, as a result of his obsession he cannot tell the difference. He also feels satanic devilish pity towards the old man although he is the one terrorising him. Largely, Poe presents the narrator as a sadistic person with a lack of conscience and self-control.
In general, “The Tell-Tale Heart” consists of a monologue in which the murderer of an old man protests his insanity rather than his guilt: “You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded”. By the narrator insisting so emphatically that he is sane, the reader is assured that he is indeed deranged. When the storyteller tells his story, it’s obvious why. He attempts to tell his story in a calm manner, but occasionally jumps into a frenzied rant. Poe’s story demonstrates an inner conflict; the state of madness and emotional breakdown that the subconscious can inflict upon one’s self.