Edgar Allen Poe, in his short story “ The Tell Tale Heart “, published in 1843, describes, in a harried brusque tone, the effects of guilt and how the truth will always be revealed. With the use of superficial logos to reveal the deteriorating mental state of the narrator and his twisted reasoning, random repetition to show his fascination on detail and rising panic when guilt begins to set in, and juxtaposition to show the narrator’s contradicting and confused concept of love and hate, Poe himself narrates the fall of a psychopath at the hands of guilt.
Poe’s appeal to logos to defend the sanity of a murderer, is ironic and paradoxical, in its serving to highlight the narrator’s skewed logic and deteriorating mental state. The logos is only applicable on the surface of matters, as the man is exemplifying the cleverness of how he went about killing the old man, but doesn’t delve extremely deep into his reasons for doing the deed. He mentions how calmly, “with what caution – with what foresight“, he planned out the murder, citing pre-meditation as a defense for his sanity.
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Upon watching the old man while he slept, the narrator details his precautions for not to wake him and wonders “would a mad man have been so wise as this? ”, reasoning a man who’d lost his mind would not be so careful to not get caught. When the man wakes on the eight day, the narrator is sensitive enough to realize it is too dark for his victim to see him, and so he doesn’t have to retreat. He insists what others mistake for madness is “but over-acuteness of the senses” and nothing worth being alarmed about, it even serves to sharpen his mind.
He uses this faulty reasoning to delusion himself into believing he hears the old man’s heart, as oppose to his own, hears the heartbeat quickens and assumes the other’s terror increasing, as oppose to his own. His reasoning fails him when he fears the neighbors will hear the heartbeat, but worries not over the victim’s yell or his own. He claims his process of hiding the deed will disprove madness, dismembering the corpse, so that he may hide it beneath the floor.
A tub had caught all the evidence; there is logic how he hid the evidence, but he doesn’t see the madness in cutting off the extremities of a man he knew. All logic and intent of convincing sanity is gone upon the officers’ arrival, as his heart begins to beat quicker from guilt and paranoia, and yet again he imagines it to be the old man’s cut up and beneath the floor boards. The last treads of sanity fall away when he admits to the officers his crime, imagining they knew and heard the heartbeat also, but were content to mock him. “[T]ear up the planks” he implores, “it is the beating of his hideous heart! ”