Symbolism in The Tell-Tale Heart
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart’ is one of his celebrated short stories that narrate the story of a murderer who takes the life of an old man because he has an issue with his blind eye. He uses the excuse of the old man’s beating heart to finish what he started before someone else notices. Allan Poe has used symbolism in most of his writings. It is not only the Tell-Tale Heart but he has mastered the use of symbolism in his works. From the “The Pit and the Pendulum” where the whole narrative is a symbolism of the dark and rough time in its torture chambers. Symbolism in his story “The Black Cat” uses the cat as a representation of the kind of hatred that grows in people and remains bottled up. The same thing happens in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart’ is one of his famous short stories that narrate the story of a murderer who takes the life of an old man because he has an issue with his blind eye. He uses the excuse of the old man’s beating heart to finish what he started before someone else notices. He uses the beating heart to represent the consciousness that is in human nature after they have been involved or done a bad thing. The key symbols in the story The Tell-Tale Heart are the eye and the pounding heart.
The storyteller reports being repelled by the eye of the old man. He calls it the “vulture” eye (Poe). The bird is a scavenger that eats dead animals and rotting flesh, which means the eye is a representation of preying and death. The “evil eye” is bothering the old man so much that it drives him to madness. The fact that he calls it the “vulture” eye symbolizes the presence of death or predicts the imminent death, as vultures are known to hang around dying creatures and waits to prey on them (Ellatopia). The color of the eye can also be translated to mean coldness. The eye is blue a color that is usually a symbol of coldness. The narrator feels like the eye is watching him and he feels like goring it out. The eye can also be translated by the reader to mean light, intellect, and wisdom. Vision is always associated with vision and discernment of the future. This is why it is difficult for the reader to comprehend why the narrator wants to kill the eye and the old man along with it.
The speaker terms the old man’s eye as evil. The veil or the film that he describes is over the eye might be the reason why he calls it the vulture eye. The old man’s evil is seen to have a huge influence on the narrator because he is restless when he sees it. he appears to be tortured and bothered by it so much that he feels to murder the man just because he is not comfortable with a single part of his body. His dull eye with the veil or film covering it might be a symbol that the man cannot see the danger that is larking. He is in imminent danger but does not see it. However, the light still allows light to the extent that the old man’s heart starts pounding fast.
The other symbol is the beating heart is a representation of emotions and conscience. The narrator believes that the loud beating of the heart comes from the old man when the light goes through his eye. However, it is obviously the heart of the narrator that is pounding because he feels the guilt, which ultimately leads to his confession. The beating heart might then be a symbol of the lack of closure that comes with being a murderer and the haunting consequence even if we believe the dead are buried. In essence, the old man’s pounding heart is the speaker’s guilty conscience. At this point in the story, the narrator is filled with extreme rage, fear, and guilt so it is obvious his heart is where the beating sound is emanating. He is delusional, he cannot separate the way he reacts from his own self and what he suspects to be the old man. Despite dismembering the victim’s body and putting it under the floorboards, the narrator still hears the heart beating. The narrator is hallucinating from his guilty conscience.
The beating heart is a representation of the human morality or human aspect of the narrator. Throughout the narration, the storyteller considers himself the animal without emotions, and without the capacity to be sympathetic. He somehow takes pride in what he has done, he stalks the old man like an animal would and even feels good about himself for executing the perfect murder. However, when the guilt starts creeping in his humanity starts coming back and the guilt starts making him hear the pounding heart from under the floorboards. The beating heart bothers the old man so much that he confesses. The heart is basically a revelation of his conscience, and after hearing it he has is faced with certain moral code.
Ellatopia. “Symbolism: The Tell Tale Heart.” Short Stories Analyzed, 13 Oct. 2013, www.shortstoriesanalyzed.com/2013/10/symbolism-tell-tale-heart.html.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Tell-tale Heart And Other Writings. New York : Bantam, 1982. Print.