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37 pages 1 hour read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1843

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Character Analysis

The Narrator

The person telling the story remains a mystery. The reader has no knowledge of the narrator’s gender, age, name, or relation to the victim. It is tempting to assume the crime was committed by a younger man, but there is no textual proof to support such an assumption. Scholars like Gita Rajan actively argue that the murderer is a woman, but the fact that the narrator is able to dismember the body and personally brings chairs for the policemen into the bedroom suggests a man, not a woman. In the mid-19th century it was unlikely that three policemen would stand around waiting for a woman to move the furniture. Nevertheless, if Poe had wanted to clarify the matter of gender, he could easily have done so by including some telling detail. Consequently, the narrator is meant to be completely anonymous, possibly to allow a wider range of readers to step into their shoes. This choice also suggests that women, as well as men, are capable of displaying sociopathic tendencies and committing gruesome crimes.

Additionally, the narrator repeatedly states that they suffer from “nervousness” caused by a disease that sharpens the senses. Such an ailment is often associated with Poe’s characters, such as Roderick Usher in “The Fall of the House of Usher.

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