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The Tell Tale Heart - Edgar Allan Poe

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Author: Edgar Allan Poe / Genre: Horror

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    4 Reviews
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      27.11.2010 19:42
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      A well known and excellent short story by Edgar Allan Poe

      I've been feeling particularly unintelligent and uncultured recently. It's partly down to being in Spain and not being able to speak the language properly, despite languages apparently being my forte, but also that I used to read all the time as a child but now I hardly ever pick up a book to read unless I have to. It's not that I don't like reading, but I have just really gotten out of the habit of it, and so I'm making the effort to get back into it again. Fortunately I just received a small piles of books for my 21st birthday (I'm getting so old!) so have been able to reignite my passion for literature, but have also found myself turning to the internet for reading material. Seventy years after an author's death, their work becomes public domain (or so I have been led to believe) which means that people can legally post the books, short stories and poems of any writers who died before 1940. This has allowed me to start enjoying the work of a man who was very familiar to me through parodies and references in popular culture despite never having read a word of it myself, and that is the great Edgar Allan Poe.

      Poe's name is almost synonymous with well written, American gothic literature, and the fact that his stories and poetry are so well known over 160 years after his death is testament to just how impressive his work is. Although I haven't made my way through all of his stories and poems yet, I have really enjoyed the ones that I have gotten through (including his most famous poem, The Raven,) and was particularly keen to read The Tell-Tale Heart, which is arguably his most famous short story. I had first heard of it as a child when it was parodied in an episode of The Simpsons (in 'Lisa's Rival', if anyone's interested) but it's appeared in several other television episodes and films before and since. The fact that this story is read in American schools means that it's fairly firmly in the public consciousness, and its continuous appearances in the media means that it will not soon be forgotten.

      The Tell-Tale Heart is a macabre short story written by Edgar Allan Poe first published in 1843. At just over 2,200 words it certainly is a short story and can be read in only ten minutes or so, yet still manages to create more atmosphere and character depth than many authors do in a whole novel. It is a tale told in the first person by a man who was so disturbed and haunted by the pale blue 'eye of a vulture' that belonged to the old man with whom he lived, that he decided to take the man's life, 'and thus rid [himself] of the eye forever'. The events of the story are told in almost a strange frenzy, punctuated by the narrator assuring the reader of his cleverness and skill in the act, and that his decision to kill the man came from a disease which had 'sharpened [his] senses', not madness. He is most certainly not mad, he reassures us.

      This story is written in such a beautiful and engaging way that one almost forgets the disturbing nature of the content: by the pen of a different writer, the story of a man who plots to murder his companion based merely on him having a strange eye, does the deed and conceals his body under the floorboards could have been quite different. The focus is certainly on the mental state of the perpetrator of the crime, as despite his insistence that he is not mad, there is much evidence to the contrary. Poe writing style works very well in this tale, allowing him to make changes of pace and feelings of urgency and panic felt through his use of language and emphasis. I have read it several times through now and find that I enjoy it more each time, as once you know how the story transpires it's easier to pay attention to the ambience of the piece rather than merely on the events it describes.

      I would highly recommend this story as it is a wonderfully powerful short piece of writing. It can be read in many places online, but I would recommend reading it at Online-Literature.com http://www.online-literature.com/poe/44/ as on other sites the font and all white screen makes you strain your eyes to read it, whereas on this site it's not so glaring. The Tell-Tale Heart can also be found in many books and anthologies of Edgar Allan Poe's work, but you'd have to check the individual book to be sure that it's included.

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        23.04.2010 10:26
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        Basically - A must read. Excellent short stories to disturb before bed time!

        "The Tell Tale Heart" is undoubtedly one of Poe's better known short stories, and deservedly so. It is an excellent short tale for any strangers to Poe to gain an insight into what his literature is about. Containing all the terror, dark mirth, and shivers that one learns to associate with Poe's shorter works of horror fiction. Pay particular attention to the disturbing descriptive work used as he discusses the terror and discomfort caused by 'the old man's eye'. I must admit, it is some months since I last read "the tell tale heart" and the hairs on my neck have just stood to attention at the thought.

        Upon reading "The Tell Tale Heart" I instantly adored it and one of its greatest merits was that it inspired me to read more of Poe's work. As I read further short stories I found my fondness of the tell tale heart falter, this is not to say my opinion of its merits changed only that I found some of Poe's lesser known works more to my liking. I have since purchased several books containing Poe's short tales, and thoroughly enjoy reading them repeatedly, all this of course is attributable to "The Tell Tale Heart. A must read.

        If you have read this already and liked it, you must try: The Black Cat, The Masque of the Red Death, Berenice, The Gold Bug and a longer work of fiction The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.

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          14.04.2010 21:28
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          A 'must have' for any serious library or book collection.

          Edgar Allan Poe was a 19th Century American gothic-writer and poet, who became famous for his tales of horror. The Tell-Tale Heart is a short story, told in the first person by the central character. The central character remains unnamed and without physical description throughout the story. There are four other characters - an unnamed old man, with whom the central character resides, and three policemen.

          In common with most of the works of Poe, the story has a very simple plot line. The central character is suffering from some form of mental disorder, which would not be immediately apparent to those around him/her. The disorder causes him to plot and execute the cold-blooded murder of the old man. The only motivation we are given for his actions is the offence caused to him by the old man's physical appearance, specifically a blinded eye, which he resolves to rid from the world.

          After the old man is murdered, the central character dismembers the body and conceals it beneath the floorboards of a communal room. Shortly after this, three policemen arrive at the residence, explaining that a report had been made to their station of suspected foul play within the vicinity. Although initially confident that his crime will go undiscovered, the central character is eventually compelled into confessing his crime. He hears a noise, which one would assume is imagined and not real. He equates this noise to being the beating of the old man's heart and this drives him to confession.

          The Tell-Tale Heart raises a number of issues and themes, which are common to the works of Poe. Most prominent is the theme of mental illness. Poe was writing at a time when the schools of psychiatry and psychology were beginning to set down roots. Although the concept of insanity has a significant history, the complexity and variation involved in the concept did not become the subject of scientific examination and classification until the 19th Century.

          The Tell-Tale Heart deals with a particularly dangerous individual - seemingly ordinary, yet in fact seriously unbalanced. The central character is never named, sexed or otherwise described physically, an essential literary device, which allows reader to substitute him with real-life individuals.

          The motivation for the murder is trivial and reveals aspects of the central character's mental disorder. He determines to murder the old man, so his eye will not offend him any longer. It is irrelevant to him that the old man has only treated him well. There is no compassion, nor significant provocation.

          The idea of holding secrets is another prominent feature of this story. Initially the central character is boastful of his adeptness at concealing the truth, continually congratulating himself of his ability to plan and plot his deed, without arousing the suspicions of anyone, let alone his victim. However, the secrets soon get the better of him (post-murder), manifesting themselves in the form of an imagine heartbeat, which eventually compels the central character to confess his crimes. In a dramatic twist, the very disorder that compelled him to murder the old man also compels him to confession.

          This story is a 'must read', an essential part of any serious library. This review does not do justice to the complexity and brilliance of Edgar Allan Poe.

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          10.04.2010 22:03
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          My thoughts and a plot overview

          Edgar Allan Poe's (famous for writing the Raven) the tell tale heart is the short story told by a man who narrates the story of himself killing an elderly gentleman.
          A subtle horror/thriller which despite it's age still raises a few hairs on the back of your neck. I like the style of the piece with it being narrated by the killer and not told in third person or by the victim. I felt this gives it more scope to look into the mind of a 'normal' man and the tiny trigger which turns him from reasonable human to killer.
          I also find the fact that he isn't killing because of what the man has done, said, or got, but because of his own neuroses. An excellent and uncommon angle as most murderers motives are focuses on attainment from the victim.
          Also the decline of the man's mental state is evident as it builds to the crescendo and ultimate omission of murder. It leaves you wondering at what point in the story did he begin telling it. Is this his confession to the police of is the first part a diary and the second following him as it happens. It's hard to say, but either way a fantastic quick read.

          I have included the plot review from my original post don't feel you have to read it.
          He is a highly strung man insists on his sanity but who has "over acuteness of the senses." He live with an old man who he loves and has done him no wrong but has a pale blue eye with a film over it (vulture eye) that haunts the narrator, and pushes him to murder. He has nothing against the man but only wishes to wipe out the eye "Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me... For his gold I had no desire. I think that it was his eye!"
          He plans the murder because that is what a sane man would do "You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded with what caution with what foresight with what dissimulation I went to work!"
          Everyday for a week he goes to the elderly mans room and opens the door and shines a thin beam of light onto his face to see if the eye is open, but it is not. "I did for seven long nights... but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye." He enquired to how the man had slept during the night and continued his daily routine.
          On the final night he feels different as he heads to the man's room "Never before that night had I felt the extent of my powers of my sagacity... he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea". But the elderly man is disturbed and sits up, the narrator stays but his finger slips on the fastening of the lantern and the man calls out "the old man sprang up in bed, crying out "Who's there?"". The narrator waited silently then after a while he decided to open the lantern a little and it shows the vulture eye "When I had waited a long time, very patiently... I resolved to open a little a very, very little crevice in the lantern... until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of a spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye."
          He then hears the faint sound of the man's heart beat (which he likens to a watch wrapped in cotton) and as it quickened he decided to strike "With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room." The elderly man let out a shriek and the narrator throws him to the floor and smothers him with his own mattress. He then checks the man is dead "I placed my hand upon (his) heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more."
          The narrator then dismembers the man's body in a tub and lifts three planks in the floor boards. The puts the body parts into the whole in the floor and replaces them so that no one would know they had ever been disturbed.
          At 4am after the murder had been committed and he had hidden the body there is a knock on the door. Three police men are waiting and explain that a neighbor had heard a shriek and they had come to check everything was ok. The narrator knowing that he had covered his tracks and welcomes the policemen. He explains that the elderly man is absent and the shriek was he own "I smiled for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country." The policemen insisted on searching the premises and the narrator escorted them through the house.
          When they got to the elderly man's room the narrator becomes a bit cocky and insists the officers "rest from their fatigues". He takes a chair and places it over the spot where the body is hidden and chats to the policemen. After a while he begins to feel uneasy and hears the heart beat of the old man. "I found that the noise was not within my ears... It was a low, dull, quick sound much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton." As the sound becomes louder and more distinct he tries to get rid of the policemen. He wonders if they can hear the beating heart and concludes they must be able to and are just mocking him. At last he can stand it no longer and confesses to the murder and indicates where the body is hidden. "Was it possible that the officers did not hear the sound?"No, no! They heard! They suspected! They knew! They were making a mockery of my horror... I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die... louder! Louder! Louder! Louder... "Villains!" I shrieked, "Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks! Here, here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!"
          An excellent poem/short story I would recommend it to anyone.

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