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The Tell Tale Heart and The Black Cat

Overwhelming obsession and guilt typically lead to deadly consequences. In “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat,” Edgar Allan Poe presents us with two males who each commit brutal murders motivated by overwhelming obsession. The narrators differ in their dispositions but fall victim to the identical circumstances. The narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” takes pride in the cunningness of his deed and that he is capable to recount it with extreme calmness in spite of his generally nervous state, whereas the narrator of “The Black Cat” is haunted so horribly by his guilt that he tries to erase the complete event from his memory. Even although the murders are really different–one premeditated, 1 spurred on by a temporary rage–both narrators are haunted by their dark deeds. As a outcome of the guilt these two guys really feel, they eventually give in to their self-destructive tendencies and lead to their own downfall.

In the “Tell-Tale Heart,” the narrator is characterized by his oblivious method to his own madness. “In a vain work to prove his sanity by detailing how very carefully he planned the gruesome deed, the narrator tends to make it abundantly clear from the 1st that he is dangerously deranged” (Howard). Difficult the reader to get in touch with him mad only serves to make him look far more insane. He also makes it quite clear that he holds nothing but really like in his heart for the old man but was driven to the deed “because he was tormented beyond distraction by the old man’s eye.” This shows that the narrator does not lack simple human compassion, but that his obsession with the “Evil Eye” is driving him to madness. “Upon close examination, a sadomasochistic element emerges” (Pritchard).

The narrator decides to kill the old man and describes “with apparent pleasure how calculating he set about to do it” (Howard). Even when he’s about to kill the old man, he requires so significantly pleasure in the old man’s fear that he “may well have laughed.” The reader is aware that the narrator has empathy for the man he’s about to kill: “the old man groaned slightly and the narrator knew that it was the sound of one overcome by deathly fear, for he also had skilled that terror deep in the night.” But, the narrator goes on to say, “I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart.” This narrator’s pleasure-driven nature makes the murder only as well straightforward. With intense calm he dismembers the physique and conceals it under the floorboards, creating it not possible for anyone to know of the murder. Nonetheless, like the narrator of “The Black Cat”, he is unable to accept that he has gotten away with the deed, and in the end condemns himself.

“The Black Cat,” not in contrast to “The Tell-Tale Heart,” offers with a narrator who battles with deception, both of himself and the reader. “Despite the narrator’s explicit claim of sanity in the story’s very first paragraph, he quickly shows himself self deceived by terming his story ‘a series of mere household events.'” He deceives himself by playing down the murder of his wife, while producing the cruelty to his favourite pet far more than he can bear. The narrator begins his tale by describing his early love of animals. “His early reference to admiring the ‘unselfish and self-sacrificing love’ of animals reveals the narrator’s blindness ironically, his scornful words, ‘the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man,’ apply to himself.” This shows that, as opposed to the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” he has a deficiency when it comes to human compassion and adore. Even though he references his love of his cat, he by no means makes note of loving his wife. Certainly, he admits “and dimly perceives that he has lost the ‘humanity of feeling’ that his wife retained.” Therefore the narrator’s wife becomes a force of good that he have to destroy. Also, it appears that this narrator feels guilt and disgust at his deed, even though he will not admit it to himself. “Sheer emphasis or proportion in the story–the great number or words he spends on the cats contrasted with the brevity of his remarks about the maltreatment and murder of his wife–indicates the deficiency in both the narrator’s insight and his feelings.” He is blind to the truth that his guilt triggered him to place off mentioning his greatest transgression, the murder of his wife, until the quite end. It is apparent that the guilt the narrator will not let himself to feel is the explanation he can not permit himself to get away with the murder. “When the brick wall is broken down, the black cat is discovered perched on the corpse’s head, one particular a lot more indication of the narrator’s guilt and it is cause”(Prinsky). The narrator cannot bear to relive what he has done, so he breaks down and confesses to the entire point.

Despite the excellent differences between the two narrators, they share 1 widespread characteristic: a suicidal or self-destructive nature. In “The Inform-Tale Heart” as the police are questioning the narrator and as he is quite certain they have no idea what has transpired “he then hears what sounds quite considerably like the old man’s heart beating once more, and he becomes extremely anxious, speaking loudly and moving about the room, hoping that the police will not hear the heartbeat.” In his nervousness, he can not see that it is not the old man’s heart, but his own betraying him. Ultimately, overwrought with the guilt of what he had done “he admitts to his crime and urges them to tear up the boards and uncover that hideous heart.” The narrator’s suicidal nature shines by means of also with his obsession with the eye: “The narrator destroys the ‘evil eye,’ therefore ensuring his own destruction, or incarceration at least.” Also, whilst he is murdering the old man, he betrays himself by yelling. “Fearful that the neighbors would hear the heartbeat increasing rising louder, the anxious maniac yells as he bludgeons the old man, and the neighbors surely heard that” (Howard). The narrator seemingly sabotages or punishes himself due to the fact of the guilt he will not permit himself to really feel.

In “The Black Cat” the circumstance with a self-destructive narrator is really evident. The events at the finish are exactly the identical as in “The Tell-Tale Heart”: the police come to query, the narrator feels proud that he will get away with his crime out of the sheer cunningness of his concealment, and then there is the betrayal. “As they the police are about to leave the cellar, the narrator, apparently with taunting bravado but really with unconscious guilt that seeks to delay them so he may be arrested and punished, remarks to them on the solidity of the house’s walls, rapping with a cane the very spot of the concealed tomb.” The narrator, while he does not confess outright to his crime, gives the police one more possibility to comprehend his deed. He is, in a way, punishing himself for the many wrongs he has committed. Nevertheless, by the end, the narrator is nevertheless blinded because he can't see that it was his personal fault. “Rationalizing to the finish, the narrator blames the cat for his misdeeds and capture: ‘the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman'”(Prinsky).

The two narrators in “The Inform-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” may be quite distinct superficially. One requires delight in cruelty, one takes pride in his compassion for animals. 1 carefully plans out his deed so as not to be caught, one carries out his deed in a match of rage. Nevertheless, each narrators are entirely calm thereafter. They each query the reader, practically daring the reader to say that they are mad. Each narrators succeed in deceiving themselves, but they do not succeed in deceiving the reader. The narrator of “The Black Cat” has a deficiency in human compassion, although the narrator of “The Inform-Tale Heart” says freely that he loved his victim. But, they have one particular major characteristic in common–both men, set on punishing themselves, fully destroy any possibility they have at a life or at freedom.

Performs Cited


Howard, Ronald W. “The Tell-Tale Heart”. Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition Copyright 2004 by Salem Press, Inc.

Prinsky, Norman. “The Black Cat”. Masterplots II: Quick Story Series, Revised Edition Copyright 2004 by Salem Press, Inc.

Pritchard, Hollie. “Poe’s The Inform-Tale Heart.(Critical Essay).” The Explicator 61.three (Spring 2003): 144(4). InfoTrac OneFile. Thomson Gale. Central Virginia

Community College. 23 July 2006 <http://findgalegroup.com/tix/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC-Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002&prodId=ITOF&docID=A110802724&s ource=gale&userGroupName=viva2_cvcc&version=1.>
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