The Tell-Tale Heart

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, which was first published in James Russell Lowell's The Pioneer in January 1843; Poe republished it in his periodical The Broadway Journal for August 23, 1845. It is widely considered a classic of the Gothic fiction genre and is one of Poe's most famous short stories.

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is a first-person narrative of a narrator who is taking care of an old man with a clouded eye. The narrator's paranoid symptoms lead to an irrational fear of the weird clouded eye. The man becomes so distressed by the eye that he plots to murder the old man. For 8 nights, the narrator opens the door of the old man's room, a process which takes him a full hour, watching and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. However, the old man's eye is shut, hiding the clouded eye, and the narrator loses the urge to kill. One night, though, the old man awakens as the narrator watches, revealing the eye, the narrator strikes, smothering the old man with his own mattress. The narrator proceeds to chop the body up, and hide the pieces under the floorboards. He then cleans the place up to hide all signs of the crime. When the police respond to a call placed by a neighbor who heard a distressful scream, the narrator invites them to look around, confident that they will not find any evidence of the murder. They sit around the old man's room, right on top of the very hiding place of the dead body, yet suspect nothing. The narrator, however, begins to hear a faint noise. As the noise grows louder, he hallucinates that it is the heartbeat of the old man coming from under the floorboards. He becomes extremely paranoid by the fact that the officers seem to pay no attention to the sound, which was loud enough to hear. Shocked with the constant beating of the heart and the narrator's feeling that the officers must be aware of the heartbeats, he loses his control and confesses to killing the old man and tells them tear up the floorboards to reveal the body.

Throughout the story the narrator insists that he is sane, yet at the same time, he is giving the impression of serious hallucinations or paranoia, possibly caused by guilt from murdering an elderly old man.



Poe's short stories often have a single, unifited theme that reaches the reader through diction, characterization, plot, dialogue and other elements. The theme of this story might be guilt or madness. The story also contains the theme of a corpse interred in a house, commonly present in "The Black Cat" and "The Fall of the House of Usher". The corpse invariably symbolizes some flawed portion of the narrator's personality - in this case, his inability to see the world with a clear eye - and the house represents the narrator himself. Burying the corpse within the house represents the narrator's attempt to bury his flaws rather than dealing with them, as the concealment of the narrator's wife in "The Black Cat" represents the narrator's desire to wall his problems within. This burial always leads to the narrator's downfall in Poe's stories, because the narrator has failed to deal with his problem, and so it resurfaces later on. The madmen in Poe's stories are usually monomaniacal. The nervousness with teeth in "Berenicë" is comparable, and to an extent, in "The Black Cat" by an obsession with another eye.


Works inspired

An animated film version by UPA, The Tell-Tale Heart (1953), is included among the films preserved in the United States National Film Registry. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is one of several songs inspired by Poe stories on the album Tales of Mystery and Imagination (original version 1976, CD remix 1987) by The Alan Parsons Project. It is sung in an appropriately hysterical style by Arthur Brown. In 2003, Lou Reed released The Raven, an album solely based on poems and short stories by Poe; featured was "The Tell-Tale Heart."The 1953 animated short is featured on the two disc version of the DVD Hellboy.

In 1995, Mojo Press and artist Bill Fountain published a collection of graphic versions of Poe stories under the title The Tell Tale Heart, featuring a female character as the tortured narrator of the title story. An episode of The Simpsons ("Lisa's Rival," September 11, 1994) featured a "Tell-Tale Heart"-inspired act of revenge between Lisa and a new student (voiced by Winona Ryder). The season 1 episode titled "The Telltale Head" is a reference to "The Tell-Tale Heart." An episode of Spongebob Squarepants, Squeaky Boots, has Mr. Krabs burying a pair of squeaky boots underneath the floorboards, only to begin hearing the noise more and more before snapping and digging up, boiling, and eating the boots.

A portion of the 1995 computer game The Dark Eye requires the player to enact the plot of "The Tell-Tale Heart" from the point of view of the story's narrator.

"Nightmares from the Mind of POE"contains "The Tell-Tale Heart"!

     About the movie...


Throughout Edgar Allan Poe’s life he was plagued with nightmares and the deaths of those he loved. Those nightmares and his tragic life were many times the basis for his stories and poems; often he found himself in the middle of those nightmares and stories as the victim or antagonist. “Nightmares from the Mind of Poe” brings to life those nightmares with Poe as part of the stories, as he dreamed and wrote them. In the movie, he struggles with nightmares, insomnia, sadness and despair in his own life as he creates his stories. The film brings to life four of the most well known tales from the master of suspense and horror - “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The Premature Burial” and “The Raven” ... CLICK HERE FOR TRAILER AND INFO

"Nightmares from the Mind of POE"


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