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I am looking for abridged books to read, so I pay regular visits to the library to look for these abbreviated books and borrow them . . . one day the library was clearing out some books which were old editions or worn out . . . they were selling them at a very cheap price just to get rid of them! I searched through these books and I found some good books and some short stories books as well . . . I bought them and went back home and started to read.
One of these short stories books was The Tell tale heart by Edgar Allan Poe. I had never heard of the writer before nor read his books so I did a little research to learn a bit about him. _______________________________________________________________
Edgar Allan Poe
He was an American writer, poet and critic. He was born in Boston in 1809 and he died in 1849, at only 40. His death was not clearly identified as some people refer his death to many factors (like being alcoholic; perhaps he had brain congestion; or probably heart disease). Although he didn’t live long enough to see his success during his life his work was appreciated after his death! He is considered to be _ the spiritual father of horror genres _ by bravely introducing and originating the new genre of horror stories into American literature. He is also known for writing romantic stories with Gothic style and touch; he wrote crime fiction and he was the first to write in the detective fiction style. His mum died as soon as she gave birth and his dad abandoned him soon after. Then he was given to a foster home where he went to military school and college but he dropped out of both as he was in debt. He married his cousin Virginia Clemm but, tragically, she died 2 years later, which left Edgar Allan Poe distraught and in despair; he was deeply melancholic. This was all said to affect his lifestyle and his style of writing, as from then on when he wrote about romance it usually contained a melancholic theme.
The Tell Tale Heart is one of his most read and most widely known short stories. The book has been printed so many times with different covers and different illustrations but still having the same content. It was first published in 1843 in Boston and he was only paid $10 for it! The book is often published with other short stories written by the same author (and in small anthologies by several authors) but mine was only this short story so my book is a paperback
edition with only 24 pages.
The plot summary
It was a horror story . . . A crime been told by the killer who is in the same time the narrator and the main character of the story. The narrator who was mentally ill and not emotionally stable keep insisting that he is sane and all what he did was a sign of his sanity!
Whom did he kill . . . and why?
Would you kill someone because you didn’t like his haircut? Or, maybe you dislike the wrinkles on his face? Will that give you the excuse to commit a murder? The narrator had the weirdest creepiest excuse. He used to work for an old man or maybe take care of an old man who has a disease in his eye that left it with a pale blue-grey cloudy eye with film over it like a vultures eye (according to the narrator’s description) which kept irritating him every time he looked at the man! The old man did treat him well and the narrator himself admitted that he had nothing against him and he was not after his money or gold . . . it was only the eye with that colour when it looked at him he felt that his blood ran cold! Therefore, by stages . . . slowly and gradually he made up his mind and decided to get rid of the old man’s life and that horrible evil eye forever . . . he killed him with terror . . . like a beast . . . with no mercy and cut him in to pieces . . . by separating the head with the eye and the other organs and buried him under his . . . ?? The story didn’t end there . . . there was more dreadfulness and horror to come but I guess you need to read the story to know it all!
Well, when I read the story I didn’t believe that it was written in the 19th century! It was horrendous, appalling, and scary, and a blood-chilling story. Yes, it was written more than 150 years ago but believe you me when you read it you wouldn’t believe it was that old!
The tale was mostly written in a very dark and mysterious way . . . the writer managed to engage the reader throughout his short story of eighteen pages! He managed to get the reader’s attention and to start to think and ask questions at the very beginning of the story!
The story started with the famous line . . . “TRUE! - - Nervous - - very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why do you say that I am mad?” The very beginning of the story grabbed my attention when the narrator (who is at the same time the killer) is trying nervously to assure us that he is not mad by telling the whole story in his own words and his own point of view. Poe told the story from one side only: maybe to add the mixture of horror and excitement to the story.
There were not many characters in the story . . . the most important character was the narrator, who Poe kept very private, mysterious and anonymous! He didn’t mention a name, age or the sex of the killer or his/her relationship to the victim . . . The character could be his son, daughter, employee or possibly his wife! But he kept sending us signals about how troubled and unstable the character was by throwing in hints and words. The narrator did all the talking, the action and description. This person was as cold as stone, a HEARTLESS person who ironically talked in a heartbeat rhythm! There were a lot of usage of [ - - ] which shows how nervous the narrator was and how loud his heart beat was! You may feel that the character is very simple but while reading you will discover how dark, problematical complex and SELF DESTRUCTIVE that character was (which you will realise why, when you read the story).
The old man
There was nothing much about the old man’s character, after all he was the victim or maybe he deserved it according to the killer’s statement! He is the prey that was targeted by him. All that was mentioned about him was that he was an old man, lived alone with the killer without specifying any relationship to him. He was probably rich. We can read about his facial looks and especially the vulture eye that kept on vexing him.
The only other characters were the police who are mentioned briefly but again no description or dialogue was going on. The Main Idea And The Subject Matter Of The Story
The feeling of guilt or holding responsibility was probably the main idea of the tale, in my opinion it was all about conscience and the sense of right and wrong by mentioning the heartbeat in several sentences, the slow single dialogue by the mad person and some usage of phrases and speech. In addition to that, it showed that he was mad, as later he heard the heart beat of the old man in his head or was that guilt?
Approach And Style
A distinguishing feature and style of “The Tell-Tale Heart” was that the story was told from the main character’s point
Pictures of The Tell-Tale Heart - Edgar Allan Poe
Tale Heart - Edgar Allan Poe
of view. The whole story was a monologue of an extremely edgy and nervy person who was explaining to us how and why he murdered someone (the old man). The story was a very clear and straightforward tale but Poe adds a twist in the story to add some mystery and gloom to it. His approach was quite different than other writers at the time as he started from the very end upwards. He used a lot of metaphors and used some effective words that tangled our brains!The slow accurate stages in the description made my blood cold for a moment or two which meant that he was successful in his desire to plant horror in our minds (or at least mine)!
It was an early example and the beginning to horror stories and films and back at that time it was a complete terror! I have read the story well over 10 times and still discover new ideas every time!
The story is told in the 1st person, describing his slaughter of the old man. He is the one telling us the story and as we already knew that he is mentally ill, the person who reads it cannot make a decision whether the narrator is telling the truth, or whether this entire story was an illusion or a made-up story! Nevertheless, in either case Poe manages to give us a big scare . . . his story was completely horrific. The killer was a psychopath . . . Poe made that unambiguously clear, the story was pretty much straightforward but his very dark writing style and the mystery surrounded the story made it sometimes a struggle to understand. Poe was able to stimulate the readers’ brains and provoke their thoughts and emotions; he was able to expose freely the dark side that we all might have hidden inside!
Of course there are many holes and negatives within the story and it might be nothing to you and not move a single hair of your body. Just keep in mind this story was written back in the 19th century when there were no electricity or electric lamps. There we were only depending on the oil lamp so if there were any . . . the old man would die!
In 1928 a film was produced, directed by Leon Shamroy, having the book’s name and pretty much the same plot and story. It starred Otto Matiesen and Darvas. Later, in 1953, an animated version was produced but with some changes made to the story. It has also been heard on the radio as part of a series. In 1996, the book, The Tell-Tale heart and other Stories, was released on an audio-cassette recording.
Prices and availability
It can be purchased separately or in a collection of other stories written by Edgar Allan Poe. My copy was only The Telltale Heart, which I bought second-hand at the local library.
It can be found at any bookshop or online like Amazon or eBay. The prices range from 82p - Ł14.48! I had mine at the equivalent to 10p from my library in Spain.
Be wary, very wary . . . someone may be watching you!