The Theme Of Insanity In Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart

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To properly determine whether or not the narrator in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” is insane a definition of insanity must be brought to light; possible explanations for his transgression must be examined, and the scope of information that has been provided must be understood for what it is. To understand if someone is insane or not, American society must lay bare a universal definition for insanity. As a whole, society today does not shy away from using words such as insane or crazy. This careless use of words leads to the definitions becoming less clear. Without a clear-cut definition for insanity not only does the word lose its power, but it also causes people to create their on definition for the word, usually with themselves …show more content…

There are many mental illnesses that would lead to insane behaviors ranging from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to Schizophrenia. While it is difficult for the average person diagnose mental disorders from such a short story, the narrator likely has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The care he takes in every aspect of his nightly stalking show the telltale characteristic of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: “And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it- oh so gently!” (Poe 1). During this nocturnal ritual, the narrator goes slowly and cautiously enters the old mans room, his work progressing at a snail’s pace. With the caution and methodical prowess of a deft horologist, the narrator stalks his prey. While his meticulous attention to detail isn’t an inherent sign of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the activity the narrator applies the practice to is what lends to the diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and, subsequently his compulsive behavior. Another possible mental illness that the narrator suffers from is Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that causes the sufferer to hear voices that are not actually there or experience paranoia. The narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” hears the sound of a dead man’s heart beat: “I admit the deed! -tear up the planks! -here, here! -it is the beating of his hideous heart!” (Poe 4) After killing the man; chopping up his body; and hiding it beneath the floorboards, the narrator the narrator hears a noise that, at first, he cannot place. The heartbeat of a dead man and his general fear of the old man illustrate his Schizophrenia and his disconnection from reality. These diagnoses are examples of the narrator’s characteristics that prove his

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