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The Tell-Tale Heart


The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe: A Summary

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is a gripping short story by Edgar Allan Poe that delves deep into the themes of guilt, paranoia, and the human psyche. Written in 1843, this masterpiece of suspense and horror showcases Poe's talent for exploring the darker side of the human mind.


Narrated by an unnamed protagonist, the story unfolds as a confession of a murder driven not by malice, but by a deep-seated obsession with the old man's vulture-like eye. The narrator, insisting on their sanity, recounts the meticulous planning and execution of the murder, highlighting their careful precision to avoid detection. However, it is the overwhelming guilt and the hallucinatory sound of the old man's beating heart that ultimately unravels the narrator's sanity, compelling them to confess the crime to the police.


Poe's use of the unreliable narrator in "The Tell-Tale Heart" is a masterclass in psychological horror. The story's tension is built not through the action itself, but through the narrator's descent into madness, driven by their own guilt. The heart's incessant beating, heard only by the narrator, symbolizes this unbearable guilt, illustrating how it is our own conscience that holds the greatest power to torment us.

The story also explores themes of sanity versus insanity, the thin line between the two, and how guilt can blur this distinction. Poe challenges readers to question the reliability of the narrator and the nature of their madness, making the story a fascinating study on the complexities of the human mind.


  • Guilt and Conscience: The unbearable guilt of the narrator acts as the central theme, showing how it can lead to self-destruction.
  • Sanity vs. Insanity: Poe plays with the idea of sanity, showing how guilt and obsession can drive one to madness.
  • The Power of the Human Psyche: The story explores the depths of the human mind, its complexities, and its capacity for self-deception.

"The Tell-Tale Heart" remains a timeless classic, showcasing Edgar Allan Poe's unparalleled ability to delve into the darkest corners of the human soul. Its exploration of guilt, madness, and the human conscience continues to resonate with readers, making it a staple of psychological horror and suspense literature.