Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"The Tell-Tale Heart": Live Blogging


Enjoy your discussion of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." Remember to uphold our standards of professionalism (capitalization, grammar, etc.), and to bring in textual passages when possible.

94 comments:

whitneys said...

Do you guys think the heartbeat the narrator hears is really the old man's, or his own?

whitneys said...

AND...what is the significance of either?

morgant said...

Whitney- I think that was all in his mind. I really didn't think it was the old man. I think it was his own heartbeat he was hearing and it just built up so much that he jumped to conclusions. He was already crazy to begin with really, and that's why I think it was all in his head.

Laurenc said...

Whitney - I don't think there was ever a heartbeat. I think it was the narrators paranoia that caused him to imagine a heartbeat.

marissas said...

Whitney- I think it was his own heartbeat and he was just overpowered by his guilty conscience.

AustinD said...

I thought it was his own. Though a heart will beat long after death, I think it was the fact that he was nervious. It was his own nervious heart that created that image.

MollyS said...

One of the biggest things that I noticed when reading this story was the connections that it shared with The Fall of the House of Usher. There was one large similarity that caught my eye, and that was the presence of heightened senses, and how that played a large part in both stories. For lack of a better reason for this, the only conclusion I can draw is that possibly, and as much as I hate to make this connection, that possibly it all comes back to Edgar Allen Poe's reliance on the drug opium. Thoughts?

amyw said...

whitneys---I think he's imagining the heartbeat and he thinks it's the old man's. He's so guilty over what he has just done that the spirit of the old man lives on in his eyes, if that makes any sense. He can't forget about what he did, and a small part of him wishes the old man was still alive, hence the heartbeat. It's his conscience.

hannahl said...

whitney- Good question! I had never thought that the heartbeat belonged to the narrator, but that makes more sense. He was so nervous that he created the idea that the heartbeat was the man's, when it was really his.

Ryad said...

Whitney I think the heartbeat he hears is his own because it gets louder and louder as he feels more and more nervous, also the Police didn't react to the noise at all and if it was the old mans heart that he heard they would have heard it too.

whitneys said...

laurenc ~ So then what was the purpose of the heartbeat in the story? Just to personify his paranoia

hannahl said...

What was the signifigance of the "veil" over the man's eye?

ParkerH said...

Personally, I feel that anyone that tries this hard to prove he ISN'T crazy, but then goes and kills a guy over an eye, and then hears a "heartbeat" from a dead guy is probably crazy.

mollyd said...

Whitney- I think the heartbeat was in his mind because he was becoming so overwhelmed with guilt and having the policemen there made him feel more and more guilty and sort of pushed it out of him.

jordans said...

What is the significance of sight and sound? Do you think they were used literally or metaphorically?

morgant said...

Okay, guys, I have a question.

"...for it was not the old man who vexed me but his Evil Eye."

In this quote, what do you think the narrator meant? Is there some symbolism involved with his eye or what is it about the eye that drove him crazy?

MollyS said...

How exactly did he kill the old man? When he made the comment, "no stain of any kind -- no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that." Does this mean that he simply scared him to death? Was he going through the whole intricate ordeal of sneaking into the room at the slowest pace possible just to insure that the old man would be scared to death?

morgant said...

Parker- haha oh yes I so agree! That definitely proved to me that he was in fact crazy but trying to either convince himself otherwise or convince us otherwise.

kennaw said...

Whitney~ I think the heart beat is his own. Even when the old man was dead he kept hearing the same noise. His heart beat got faster and he started to notice it mroe once he was nearing the murder. It also got louder when the police were in the room with him. Basically in all I think when he was put under the pressure of himself (to kill the old man and to not crack in front of the police) his heartbeat got louder.

morganw said...

whitney - I think the narrator hears his own heartbeat. I, personally, think that this character takes the cake for the most insane person ever. Seriously, the guys a nut job. He's in denial and is trying to blame his craziness on his heightened senses which is really just the voices in his head which happen to be his. He's definitely hearing his own heartbeat.

Laurenc said...

molly - of course we could say everything Poe writes is based on an opium high, but whether or not that's true doesn't really matter to me at least. I would like to think that his stories are not all based on opium highs. Heightened senses could also relate to fear. Such as if you're are afraid of heights and suddenly everything because more real and clearer when you are up really high because you are horrified and do not want to be there. Fear is a natural drug some might say, and it causes us to imagine and worry about things that may not even be real.

hannahl said...

jordans- Senses, especially loss of particular senses, play a huge role in literature. For example "The Chosen" and "The Village" (Ivy). The loss of the old man's sight seemed to affect the hightened hearing of the narrator. They play off of each other and each is both a weakness and a strength.

kennaw said...

DO you guys think he was afraid of himself? or the man's eye?

Also, when Poe writes, why did he put emphasis on noise? he repeated the words, put them in caps, and used them sonstantly throughout the story. What was the point of that?

amyw said...

mollys---I noticed this too! In both stories they talked a lot about "acute senses of hearing." I think it's a sign of insanity---Roderick had this, and he was a hypochondriac who obviously had mental problems as a result of his isolation. The narrator in "Heart" was crazy too, because of the fact that he kept saying he wasn't crazy and because he wanted to kill an innocent old man just because of his eye and planned it out so well (the fact that he planned it out was a sign of insanity to me, even though he kept saying that it was a sign of saneness). So I think the acute hearing symbolizes craziness.

whitneys said...

amyw ~ That is exactly what I was thinking. I believe that it is his conscience or his logic self trying to influenc the narrator. BUt his madness blinds him too it at first, but when there is nothing left to blind him, he realizes it.

hannahl said...

molly - the narrator threw a bed over the old man, which probably suffocated him.

shannanp said...

Whitney-I don't know if someone already said this, but I think the heartbeat is his guilt about what he did. The heartbeat is sort of a metaphor.

AustinD said...

Great question inner circle!!!

But it truely is a deep question. What do we define as sanity and insanity? I personally think sanity is being stable enough to function in moddern society, but what makes our definition different than someone from another family, another state, another country, etc.?

sdermody said...

Molly- I noticed the same thing! Why would both stories focus so much on heightened senses? Was Poe himself experiencing heightened scenes? I wondered if the heartbeat was just an excuse of the mind to justify killing the old man.

amyw said...

Why couldn't the narrator overlook the old man's eye? He said at the beginning of the story that he loved the old man and that the old man had never done anything to him. You'd think if you felt this way about someone you could learn to overlook a small detail such as a vulture eye...

morgant said...

Lauren- I definitely agree with your comment! I don't think every story Poe wrote was off of an opium high. I feel that of the stories we have read so far, I feel that fear is the underlying sense that the characters feel and they try to find a way out of it. Just a thought.

Laurenc said...

Whitney - I believe that is true. I think in the beginning there was actually a heartbeat, that being the old man's but I think the fact that the narrator hears it after having been so calm mearly represents his underlying horror of having commited this crime and possibly being discovered.

marissas said...

Morgan- I remeber in our discussion yesterday us talking about the fact that the eye is the window to the soul, so maybe subconsciously he really doesn't like the old man either.

morganw said...

Hannah - I think the significance of the "veil" over the old man's eye was the narrators ignorance about the old man's qualities. He mentions that he talks to him a lot, yet he doesn't even know the man's name. Also, I think it could be symbolic of how we as humans tend to hide from our fears - the veil over the eye shields it from the light from the narrators lantern.

Ryad said...

morgant- This is goint to sound really weird but I'm connnecting your question to a gorilla at the zoo. Gorillas hate being stared at and "mocked". One came up and started banging on the glass because this man was stairing and mocking the gorilla. Maybe the narrator was like the gorilla. He felt the eye was constantly watching him and mocking him somehow and that's why he went after the eye, because it drove him crazy to see it everyday like he was being watched and it was because the eye was different that it effected him so badly.

rachels said...

Whitney-I think the heartbeat is his own. I think it shows his quilt and fear of himself. Someone I know, many years ago, thought about suicide, she in some ways, wanted to be controlled by someone else so that she didn't have to be scared of what she might do to herself. Maybe that's the reason he unconsciously let himself be. He is scared of what he has done to someone. I think his heart is beating so fast because of his anxiety, guilt and fear. Also,in all the books that we've read this year, there is a overwhelming fear of the unknown.

mollyd said...

Molly- I was wondering the same thing because the old man seemed to die really quickly and without any struggle. Also the old man never seemed to go back to sleep after hearing the noise. Was he expecting something or did he know it was comeing? but as I understood it he was just shoved into the floor and the boards were put back.

hannahl said...

amyw - To me, the "veil" over the eye meant that he was blind in one eye. I think this made the narrator uneasy because the "blind eye" was looking at him all the time (since it had nothing controlling where it was looking) and he was unstable enough that he became frightened.

KarlyH said...

I think that the narrartor was insane and that the heartbeat was a figment of his imagination. He was trying to justify his action and prove his sanity. He believes the people around him have the same hearing as him and I think it is his concience that leads him to believe others are aware of his flaws.

jordans said...

Hannahl- I think the “veil” over the eye was just a cataract but I think it also had some greater significance. I think it might show that even if we can care about someone who is perfectly innocent that some people will need to find something that bothers him. It shows that the narrator has relationship problems and may not always be percieved as crazy but that he has definite character flaws.

whitneys said...

kennaw ~ I think he was afraid of himself. I think there was something he had done or something he feared about himself. The man's eye just reminded him of it and thus needed to get rid of it. Really good question!

Laurenc said...

morgant - I agree. I think fear and paranoia are the driving factors behind most if not all of Poe's stories.

morgant said...

Marissa- that is a good point, I have never thought about it that way. So like he really actually might not have liked the old man because the eye is the window to the soul. Wow, I like that a lot! Haha, good point.

ParkerH said...

Morgan, I have a thought. I don't know about you, but I've heard there are times when you simply can't take your eyes off of something, even though there may be a reason to take your eyes off, or there isn't a reason to stare. Maybe it's not you can't keep your eyes from staring, but you keep looking back and looking back. For instance, if someone in front of you had a giant gash in their shoulder, you would keep looking at it, or taking glances at it, wouldn't you? And since I think this guy is at least partially (or mostly) crazy, he couldn't stop staring at it, it made him mad, so on and so forth. Does that help, or does that confuse you? I don't know if I explained it very well.

morganw said...

One thing I think is significant about Poe's writing is how he uses eyes. Most authors offer several interpretations of the use of eyes, but Poe uses them exclusively in a negative context. What do you think this means/represents? Why do you think Poe does this?

amyw said...

whitneys---Exactly! Conscience ALWAYS wins out in the end. Even the narrator, who was completely crazy and a cold-blooded murderer, had a conscience that bothered him. His conscience overshadowed his madness in the end and because he thought it was the old man's heartbeat it was his guilt over the fact that he killed him. He realized that it wasn't justified, that he would probably caught, and that it was wrong.
Good question, by the way! :)

AustinD said...

What pushed the narrator to kill the old man?

hannahl said...

These are some really good comments about the veil! I like the idea that we can always see a fault in people, even if they are basically faultless.

whitneys said...

EVERYONE ~ Thanks for all the great comments on my question! It was something I wondered about and wanted your input and insight.

Laurenc said...

karlyh - I don't think he was neccesarily "insane"....lots of people suffer from extreme paranoia and that doesn't make them clinically insane. If you are afraid of something you want it to go away. Not that that gives you any right to kill someone...I'm just saying I think his anxiety led him to murder not his insanity.

Madisont said...

I got the image of schizophrenia while I was reading this story. He is hearing his own heartbeat, but he blames it on the old man. He acts like murdering the old man was completely justifiable, but at the same time, he is afraid for anyone to find out and trying to hide the evidence. He will contradict himself, almost as if he doesn't remember what his original intentions were to say.

Does anyone else see this connection?

morgant said...

Parker- Well, it confused me a little bit, but made sense in a way. I understand what you're trying to say. It's kind of like he could only concentrate on that one part of the old man, and, being crazy, it just drove him to the point of murder... that is kind of extreme but true.

amyw said...

austind---Like the inner circle was saying, there's something about everyone that bothers another person, however small it may be. But most people would just learn to overlook it. The narrator obviously didn't because of his insanity, but a sane person with their conscience intact from the very beginning (the narrator's conscience only came out at the end when he heard the heartbeat) could overlook it.

Laurenc said...

parkerh - I know what you mean. When you see someone with a deformity you can't help but look at it unless you see that person so often that you're used to it. Humans are natural wary of what is different.

marissas said...

austin- I think that since the narrator was continually thinking about killing the old man, it became an obsession, and he couldn't stop until he accomplished that goal.

morgant said...

Madison- Yes, I definitely got that vibe! It's like the contradiction point that we talked about before class, Poe's stories do seem kind of contradictory.

amyw said...

madisont---I definitely saw this connection and was thinking about that as well. He had conflicting thoughts the whole time, and this is a huge characteristic of schizophrenics.

mollyd said...

Why does the old man go in and look at the old man every night?

Why does it take so long for the narrator to get his head through the doorway?

jordans said...

Did anyone else notice the emphasis on the narrator’s emotions?

I felt that it showed that the narrator acted on feeling vs. thinking, he abandoned reasons and welcomed his mad passion to control his actions. Even in the word choice Poe used there were a lot of emotions instead of thoughts.

macm said...

austind-
I feel like when the narrator saw the eye of the old man, he saw the evil in himself. I believe he knew that he had an illness, otherwise why would he try to convince us so vehemently? I think that he made a connection between the man's disability and his own, and then the disease took over from there.

Madisont said...

Fear sometimes forces us to make a decision we are not entirely sure we should make. But, I made a connection to the Crucible.

Some people were completely terrified of the thought of dying, and basically denied their own existence for the sake of a life. Through fear, they make a decision that, under other circumstances, they probably wouldn't have made.

whitneys said...

amyw ~ OH!! What if this relates to "The Fall of the House of Usher"! Maybe the twins did represent a split personality of Roderick and Lady Madeline reminded Usher of his need to continue the line and his consceince driving him to be faithful to his family. Him knowingly kliing his sister represents the repression of the conscience, and finally, the sister getting out represents the conscience winning in the end.
Sorry for the length, but what do you think?

rachels said...

Morgan-I think Poe is scared of emotionless eyes because in "The Fall of the House of Usher" the narrator always notices the emotion in the eyes. As Usher is emotionally dying, he loses his eyes, in a way. The quote, "The eyes are a window to the soul" has some validity. When in The Tell-Tale Heart, the eye is covered, the narrator feels like is killing a half dead person. I wonder if Poe is scared of looking the mirror and seeing two black holes as eyes.

sdermody said...

I don't believe that something as small as an eye could push someone over the edge. This a a detail given just as thoes given in the Fall of the House of Usher. I sometimes thought that he was jealous and found somehthing odd and unfriendly about the old man. I think its easy to dislike people based upon simple judgements we make and maybe at somepoint the narrator made judgements that would forever effect his feelings for the man.

morgant said...

Marissa- on your point, I definitely agree. I've heard many times that the more you think something the more it becomes true in your mind. He thought about killing the old man so much that it became an obsession and he couldn't forget about it.

MollyS said...

Amy- I had a brilliant reply to you, but it got deleted! Anyways, I'll just say it again. I agree with you that it seems to be a sign of madness, what does this mean for the story? Can they have really happened without the thoughts? For example, in The Fall of the House of Usher, could the same ending have happened if those things WERN'T going on in his head? Or is what someone said in the inner circle earlier true, and he could have just imagined the whole thing?

sdermody said...

Does the narrartor believe he is mad?

Laurenc said...

jordans - I read a lot of psychological novels and I've noticed that emotions always play a HUGE role. People that are disabled in any way, which can even include disorders like paranoia or depression often focus solely on how they are feeling and they have trouble putting their feelings aside and thinking things through.

morganw said...

madison - I definitely saw that. schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, an over sensitivity to light, and sound, a complete lack of the ability to understand and deal with his own thoughts; yeah, these are all singnature qualities of mentally unbalanced people that I thought were quite severe in him.

amyw said...

Just a thought---I think the main point of this story is obsession and how far it can go. His obsession with the old man's eye got so out of control that he killed him (which is DEFINITELY out of control).
Also, the second main point (in my opinion) would be about the faults in everyone and how we have to respect them.

whitneys said...

mollyd~ This really puzzled me too! Maybe it was just to highlight his madness, but also maybe to show that we spend so much time on frivolous things that keep us from achieving our ultimate goal. Yet in the end, it does not make a difference. I am really puzzled by this though.

AustinD said...

@Sdermody: That's exactly the same way I felt. I almost thought it wasn't the fact that it was just irratating, but the fact that it brought out something in himself pushed him over the edge.

marissas said...

I noticed that Poe seems to use repetitiveness in this story a lot. What do you think his reasoning was behind that?

Ryad said...

jordan- I got that feeling to. He didn't really have reasons for his actions. All his explinations were based on feeling he first says that "whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever." This entire act was based on his feelings of distain for that eye. Maybe Poe is trying to say what happens when you let your emotions rule you.

Laurenc said...

Sabrina - Personally I think the narrator DOES think he is mad. The fact that he keeps repeating the phrase "I'm not mad" means he is probably trying to convince himself that more then actually believing it.

jordans said...

Sabrina- The narrator doesn't think he is mad, he feels he is mad.

kennaw said...

I agree with Whitney. I think oe committed something that he knows was wrong and the old man witnessed it. Eyes can say so much about how a person is feeling. They show all emotion. The eye was taunting Poe about what he had done and he wanted to get rid of it. The guilt and fear that was inside of Poe was shown through the eyes of the old man. Whenever he saw them , he was reminded of his act of some sort and it finally got to him.

mollyd said...

SDermody- I think the narrator does think he is mad. If he is not mad then why is he trying so hard to make people think he is not? He really is mad and he knows it and he is just trying to change himself.

sdermody said...

Lauren- I saw that too I didn't think he was as much trying to convince us that he was not mad, but to convince himself that he was not.

Laurenc said...

Why do you think the old man didn't try and find out what was in the darkness? Was he so convinced it was something harmless? Or was he too afraid to move?

morgant said...

This is a little off topic...but this quote made me think a little bit.

"Madmen know nothing."

Do you guys think that this is really true? Or do you think that sometimes they pick up on things that others don't that sometimes push them to the point of something drastic? It all has to do with perspective.

amyw said...

mollys---I think it definitely could have happened without the thoughts! Basically, when you're that crazy, it would have happened somehow (I don't know exactly how, just somehow). :)

macm said...

Laurenc-
I completely agree! I thought that he was trying to convince himself of his nonexistent sanity. I thought that this was the basis for all of his actions and the plot of the story. For example, how could he have heard the heart of the old man if he didn't believe in his madness?

morgant said...

Sabrina- That's exactly what I was thinking. I felt that he was more trying to convince himself then us that he was not crazy.

ParkerH said...

Marissa- For one, repetitiveness (is that a word?) is a very strong tool in getting a point across. Repitition is how you remember something best, and the man was trying to get across the point that he wasn't crazy. For two, like I said before, I think the guy in the story is crazy, and someone with a dysfunctional brain will do things that aren't quite... normal? or logical? That's my reasoning.

Ryad said...

I agree with Molly. Whenever I'm trying to convince myself of something I tend to tell other people the same thing over and over again my accident.

jordans said...

Lauren- I agree I think feeling not physically but feeling emotionally is also another sense and it is key to many plots and decisions made.

Laurenc said...

marissas - Repition gets things to stick. Like when babies listen to really repitious music and it's good for them. Repition makes things stick in our brains and makes us consider what bigger meaning they might have.

amyw said...

morgant---I think madmen know things, it's just the opposite of how sane people think and what they know. I agree with you, it's a matter of perspective. And opposites definitely play a part.

whitneys said...

MorganT ~ I higlighted this quote! I completely disagree, I think it is one of those things that contradicts each other. I think madmen are geniuses who ignore their conscience.

Madisont said...

MorganT- That's exactly what I was thinking. I know Poe was envisioned as "mad" and "insane", but at the same time, I'm impressed and constantly surprised at the intelligence behind his words.

KarlyH said...

marissa- I also noticed he repeated thing alot in the fall of usher. I think that he repeats things to make them stand out more and to put more emphasis on the things he feels are important to the story

rachels said...

I think in some ways we too easily call people crazy. I mean sure the narrator may be crazy but I am confident that fear leads to people doing crazy things without being crazy.

Fear of the unknown is one of the most natural emotions, but in addition to fear of the unknown, excitement of the unknown is also powerful. There are intelligent murderers that say that there is a thrill in murdering. That sounds so gross, but why do people thrill in violent video games and movies? In Unnatural Killers, this boy and girl who had hard backgrounds, watched Natural Born Killers, saw the thrill of killing and tried it themselves. Going back to The Tell-Tale Heart, it is likely that the heartbeat was influenced by thrill. I propose that it is the narrator's heartbeat which is pounding, either because of the gross thrill or because of fear of himself.

How would you guys classify the narrator, if you can't classify him as crazy? Was his murderous act a totally evil act? If so, could he still be an essentially good person, could he be a completely evil person, is there such thing as a 100% evil person?

Everyone has a hard background in someway, peoples background affects their actions. If someone acts in a completely evil way with influence from their background, can that act be considered compeltely evil?

If the character, on the other hand, is crazy, is he then guilty?

A big life question I think Poe's Tale-Tell Heart poses is where does guilt lie? Does blame often lie in circumstances, instead of people?

rachels said...

On of shakespears greatest ideas is that fool's and mad men speak the truth.