Illness in The Narrator "The Tell Tale Heart"

Sickness should not be taken lightly, but acted on quickly. Edgar Allen Poe is the creator of the story, “Tell Tale Heart,” where the main character’s actions are distinct from what a healthy minded person would do. When analyzing the story “Tell Tale Heart,” it is apparent that schizophrenia, severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and anxiety disorder caused the protagonist to behave the way he did.

To first start off, the main character , the narrator recounts his murder of an old man in an effort to prove his sanity, but in reality it is schizophrenia that is damaging his view of reality, which caused him to commit the murder. The old man that was murdered, lives with the narrator and he becomes a victim when his “evil eye” begins to drive the narrator insane. In the story it states, “why will you say I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.” He hears things that others do not hear, and he believes that people are out to get him. One example is that in the end, he hears the beating of a dead old man’s heart. The narrator isn’t thinking clearly and schizophrenia has caused him to envision false things. Schizophrenia is just one of the many mental disorders contributing to his illusions, there are many more.

Severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is also spotted in the short story as well. OCD is having a tendency towards excessive orderliness, perfectionism, and great attention to detail. In the, “Tell Tale Heart,” the narrator shows signs of having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when in the story it is stated, “And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it – oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. The narrator sees the old man’s eye in a way that makes the eyes seem as a separate person. He was persistent and checked every night to see if the old man’s eye was open or not. The narrator was meticulous and orchestrated a perfect murder that if it weren’t him that turned himself in, the police would of never known that it was him who committed the crime.

Anxiety is an illness present in the “Tell Tale Heart” short story because anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. This is shown when it states, “Now this is the point. 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,” emphasising that if he were “crazy” like people assume he is then he wouldn’t have accomplished a perfect murder. This shows that the narrator thinks he has a healthy mind but the reader is aware by the manner in which he describes the plan to murder the old man that he has anxiety. Another example is that he tells the story in first person , “ It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain,” and screams at the reader in a unusual manner, claiming that he isn’t mentally challenged.

When analyzing the story “Tell Tale Heart,” it is apparent that schizophrenia, severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and anxiety disorder caused the protagonist to behave the way he did. Sometimes it is up to you to seek help because sickness is a serious matter and one wrong decision made because of an illness can turn your whole world upside in a matter of seconds.

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Illness in The Narrator "The Tell Tale Heart". (2021, Mar 15). Retrieved June 13, 2024 , from

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