Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” takes place in the protagonist’s house. It is told through a first-person narration given by the protagonist.
It is unclear where the protagonist is or who the person being spoken to at the beginning of the story is. The protagonist’s sex isn’t specified but for ease of discussion “he” will be used to refer to the same.
There were only two occupants of the house wherein the story unfolds: the protagonist and an old man. The relationship between them is not clearly established but it is clear that the protagonist is irked by the old man.
The latter’s most distinctive characteristic is his blue vulture-like eye. There are few other characters introduced in the story: a neighbor who calls the police complaining of noises from within the house and policemen who investigate the said complaint.
The story is moved by the protagonist’s obsessive desire to murder the old man because of his frustration with the old man’s eye. He attempts to commit the deed several times but is disappointed. On the eighth attempt he enters the old man’s room again and this time the latter awakens and sits up. The light from the protagonist’s lamp hits the blue eye.
He imagines that he hears the old man’s heart beating louder and smothers the old man to death. He chops the body to pieces and buries the pieces under the floorboards to hide his crime.
However, when the policemen come to investigate the scream heard by the neighbor he imagines that he still hears the beating heart from underneath the floorboards.
Fearing that the policemen hear the beating as well, he confesses to his crime and begs them to unfasten the boards and dig up the body.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Complete Illustrated Stories and Poems. UK: Bounty Books, 1994.
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