The Tell-Tale Heart is a first person story about a nameless person trying to prove his sanity by recounting a murder he committed in the past. Before beginning his account, the unnamed narrator claims that he is nervous and oversensitive but not mad, and offers his calmness in the narration as proof of his sanity. He explains how he loved an old man but hated his vulture eye and because of this he had to kill him to longer see the eye.
The narrator notes that he may sound insane but because he was careful and planned the murder out this wouldn’t make him mad. For a week before he commits the act he goes to the old man’s chambers at 12am every morning to kill the man but cannot do so because his eye is closed and he cannot commit the act unless he can see the eye. On the eighth night however as the narrator creaks the door open he makes a sound that wakes the old man. After waiting an hour for the old man to fall asleep, the narrator shines a light on the vulture eye which is wide open. The narrator begins to hear the old man’s heart beat louder and louder and out of fear of the neighbours hearing the beating he rushes the old man and suffocates him. When the beating stops the narrator takes apart the corpse and hides it beneath the floorboards. Once the narrator finishes hiding the body he hears a knock at the door where three police officers are waiting for him investigating a noise complaint. The narrator leads them in and around the house confident he won’t be caught. He pulls out chairs 4 chairs and places them on top of the floorboards where the body is beneath and chats with the officers. After talking for awhile the narrator begins to hear a dull beating noise that increases in volume. The narrator thinks the ruse is up and the police can hear the beating as well so he yells the truth telling the police officers to tear up the floorboards revealing the old man and his beating heart.
Madness is apparent in this text through the irrational reasoning behind the murder and the fact that the preconceived murder has no purpose. The narrator admits outright that he has no idea how the thought of killing him came to be saying “It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none.” The narrator insists that he loved the old man and was never wronged by him. The way the narrator first mentions the eye is also a red flag. Trying to find reason behind the murder the narrator says ” I think it was his eye! yes, it was this!”. The story is a re telling of what happened yet the narrator still was unsure at first whether or not the eye was his motive. Going along with the idea that the eye was the narrator’s motive, that still isn’t sufficient reasoning to kill someone. The eye isn’t a supernatural object to any sane person but to him it has become a separate entity that is dangerous to him. In the narrator’s head he is able to maintain the idea of loving the old man all the while he is plotting to murder him.