Separation: The Heart’s Treachery


           “Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes it was this! One of his eyes resembled a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. 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 forever” (Poe 303).

            In “The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, the narrator fights himself in his quest for the separation of love, fear, and hate. In the passage above, Poe demonstrates the narrator’s struggle for the rationalization of the old man’s death, as the “yes” is unintentionally uncapitalized. By uncapitalizing this word, the stylistic design chosen by Poe implies several things. First, and most obviously, the narrator has found an outlet of the man—his eye, which he despises. Second, the small “yes” demonstrates the challenge the narrator now faces because he does not wish for the man’s death, and he is not overjoyed to have found such an attribute. Therefore, it illustrates his current lack of desire to kill the man. Although the modern reader would assume that the narrator was insane for delineating between the man and his eye, this is not the full image. Just as friends and family can often leave individuals feeling trapped, the narrator experiences the same feeling. Because the eye “resembled a vulture” (Poe 303), the narrator is informing readers of the man’s disparaging looks, which left the narrator feeling caged as the old man was constantly circling as he looked for failure. The narrator may simply have wanted some freedom from the old man as he states, “Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man” (Poe 303). However, the story progresses, and the narrator is moved in favor of murdering the old man from his original tepid “yes”, albeit slowly, as the narrator states, “Whenever [the eye] 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 forever” (Poe 303).

            Although the excerpt above demonstrates the narrator’s evolution on the murder, it also allows for a window into his mind. With the narrator’s mind unable to process fear or love for the man as “[his] blood ran cold”, the narrator decides to end the old man’s life (Poe 303). Even though the man died, the narrator did not kill him; rather, the fear that gripped the narrator by amplifying irrational hate killed the old man. With the old man dead and love conquered through his death, fear, which arose from the hate, quickly changed sides as the narrator heard “a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton” (Poe 306). Thus, fear would not only end the life of the old man whom the narrator did love despite misgivings, but the narrator himself would find his life ending as well. Like the old man’s heart, which had been steady until fear had struck him, the narrator’s heart now raced, and he stated, “No doubt I now grew very pale” and “I gasped for breath” (Poe 306). However, unlike the old man’s heartbeat, the narrator’s heartbeat not only controlled his life, but it also held the honor of setting the pace and tone of Poe’s work.  Just as the text starts slowly before it turns into a mad sprint at the conclusion, the narrator’s heart had been slow and steady, even tepid, but it now ran ravaged and mad. After all, the heart not only keeps us alive, but it also helps us love. In fact, one could call a heart treacherous, especially one that tells all.

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