February 08, 2021

#08-046: The Tell-Tale Heart

a vicious-looking man in a dynamic stretch is covering the eye of a man prone on a bed; an open lantern sits on the floor
Cover up that eye!

Note: Edgar Allan Poe's tales of horror are more than just frightening stories; they create a dark atmosphere, often through the use of a gradual, escalating repetition. Much is lost in retelling them; still, it's worthwhile to know what some of his stories are about.

Get Ready: Do you know someone who has a feature or habit that irritates you, even if it shouldn't? What can you do about it?

Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" is told in the first-person (the presumably-male narrator is unnamed), and begins with his musings on the state of his mental health: he is sane, he insists, but his senses are sharpened, especially his sense of hearing.

He lives with an old man. The relationship is never defined, but he claims to have "loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire." But the old man has one fault: "a pale blue eye with a film over it," that "resembled that of a vulture." It unnerves the narrator so much that at last he resolves to take the old man's life.

For seven nights he peeps in, throwing a sliver of light across the eye--but every time, it is shut, weakening his resolve to do the deed. At last, the narrator inadvertently makes a noise, the old man opens his eye, and, to the increasing volume of the old man's beating heart, he kills him, cuts up his body, and hides its pieces under the wooden floor.

But before he died, the old man screamed. A neighbor hears it and calls the police, who come to interrogate the narrator. He claims that the scream was his own, as a result of a nightmare, and that the old man has gone to the country for a visit. He brings chairs for the policemen, and places them right over the spot where the old man's remains are concealed.

As the pleasant, gentle questioning continues, the narrator begins to notice a ringing in his ears, which begins to sound like the old man's heart beating from beneath the floorboards. It gets louder, and then louder again. The sound terrifies him, and he becomes convinced that the policemen hear it.

He tries talking louder and pacing the floor to cover the sound. At last, believing that they know he is guilty, he confesses: "'Villains!' [he] shrieked, 'dissemble no more! I admit the deed!--tear up the planks!--here, here!--it is the beating of his hideous heart!'"


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tell-Tale_Heart

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. deed
  2. dissemble
  3. escalating
  4. first-person
  5. interrogate
  6. musings
  7. peeps
  8. planks
  9. sliver
  10. unnerves

  1. told using "I, me" etc.
  2. weakens; upsets
  3. wooden boards
  4. ask questions formally
  5. increasing gradually
  6. looks from a hidden location
  7. a narrow slice
  8. thoughts; reflections
  9. an action; feat
  10. hide the truth

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 8, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. j; 3. e; 4. a; 5. d; 6. h; 7. f; 8. c; 9. g; 10. b