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The Tell-Tale Heart

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In "The Tell-Tale Heart," the narrator fixates on the idea that an old man is looking at him with the Evil Eye and transmitting a curse on him. At the same time that the narrator obsesses over the eye, he wants to separate the old man from the Evil Eye in order to spare the old man from his violent reaction to the eye. The narrator reveals his inability to recognize that the "eye" is the "I," or identity, of the old man. The eyes symbolize the essence of human identity, which cannot be separated from the body. The eye cannot be killed without causing the man to die. Similarly, in "Ligeia," the narrator is unable to see behind Ligeia's dark and mysterious eyes. Because the eyes symbolize her Gothic identity, they conceal Ligeia's mysterious knowledge, a knowledge that both guides and haunts the narrator.

The irony in the story is in the second sentence of the first paragraph; the narrator says "The disease had sharpened my senses-- not destroyed, not dulled them."(p. 151). In my opinion this is ironic, because he believed that his insanity was an asset to his situation, when really it brought about his downfall. Had he not been so self-assured that his scheme would be flawless because of his "heightened senses", he invariably would not have ended up in turmoil. This brings about the next point; it was ironic that after all of his careful planning, he ended up admitting to the police that he had killed the man.

Symbolism is an important aspect of the story. The major symbol is the heartbeat. The narrator believed that the sound was the beating of the old man's heart, but it was actually his own heartbeat, signifying his fear of being caught, and his guilty conscience tormenting him for killing the old man. The vulturous, blue veiled eye clearly represents evil, the evil that the narrator saw in the eye that he was trying to eliminate.



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