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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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Symbols & Motifs

Body Parts: Eyes and Heart

The body plays a central role in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The murder is inspired by the old man’s eye and is purportedly solved by his heart. Additionally, the murder itself takes the form of dismemberment.

The eyes are traditionally considered windows to the soul, but they also allow people to observe and interact with the surrounding world. In this story the eye could represented the ability to think rationally. The narrator’s obsession with the old man’s eye and its subsequent suggest that they have lost their ability to reason.

The heart is often interpreted as a symbol of a person’s ability to feel emotions, such as love. Thus, it could be seen as a representation of morality. Right before the murder, the narrator hears a loud heartbeat and assumes it is the old man’s. This could mean the protagonist’s rational or moral side is trying to stop the crime. However, the narrator kills the source of the heartbeat, symbolically destroying their better nature. At the end, balance is re-established when either the heart begins beating loudly once more, allowing the crime to be solved and the criminal punished. In the end, the murderer’s faulty logic and rationality are defeated by the return of morality.

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