Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

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Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  Mr. Lyon on Tue May 07, 2013 9:44 am

For this assignment, please read the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" by author Edgar Allan Poe. The story can be found after this assignment and at this link: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/poe/telltale.html

After reading, please post a thoughtful response in which you explore Poe's use of symbolism in order to create meaning, suspense, and theme within his story. How does the symbolism connect to the theme of the story? Is the symbolism universal? What different interpretations of each symbol might others find within the story? (It's important for this response, especially your replies to others, to examine other interpretations that might exist and comment politely and productively on the ideas of others. Have a conversation; learn from each other!)

Remember to follow the rules of forum posting as set on our class website under the tab "Creative Consortium." You must post an original response of your own AND two replies to two classmates' responses in order to receive full credit for this assignment. DO NOT CREATE NEW TOPICS WHEN RESPONDING TO THIS PROMPT; simply respond WITHIN this topic.

DUE DATE/TIME: Thursday, May 9 (responses must be posted no later than 8:00 AM)

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THE TELL-TALE HEART

by Edgar Allan Poe
1843

TRUE! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily --how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees --very gradually --I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded --with what caution --with what foresight --with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it --oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly --very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously --cautiously (for the hinges creaked) --I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights --every night just at midnight --but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers --of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back --but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out --"Who's there?"

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; --just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief --oh, no! --it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself --"It is nothing but the wind in the chimney --it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel --although he neither saw nor heard --to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little --a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it --you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily --until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open --wide, wide open --and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness --all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense? --now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! --do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me --the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once --once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eve would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye --not even his --could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out --no stain of any kind --no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all --ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock --still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, --for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, --for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search --search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: --It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness --until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath --and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men --but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed --I raved --I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!"

-THE END-
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CONSORTIUM RESPONSE #7: "THE TELL-TALE HEART"

Post  llamasarecool on Tue May 07, 2013 4:52 pm

Poe uses a great amount of symbolism to create the mood and theme of "The Tell-Tale Heart." The old man's eye, I think, is a symbol for, not just showing us that the old guy looks strange, but that the main character wants to kill him because of his Evil Eye. I think the eye represents the main characters craziness, and that only when the eye is open, he can kill the man. This might be a little out there, but I think the closed shutters in the old man's room represents that the old man is cautious, but he let a mad man come into his life and take care of him. I also think that he old man's heart beat represents the main characters as well as he is about to kill him; all the nervous feelings. When the police come, the main character gets nervous and I think that the floor boards, when he rips them out of the ground and shows the cops, that they represent the main characters intentions and the beating heart in his head represents that he can't take the guilt for what he had done.

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CONSORTIUM RESPONSE #7: "THE TELL-TALE HEART"

Post  jemoria on Tue May 07, 2013 10:06 pm

I believe that Edgar Allen Poe uses a great amount of symbolism to create the mood of his story "The Tell-Tale Heart". I think the old man's eye is one of the most important symbols in the story.The old mans "vulture eye" symbolizes all the bad things in society. The narrator basically goes crazy from looking at this eye and thinks its disgusting and gross. In the real world there are going to be thing that drive you nuts, people that make you crazy, but you can't just kill them. Poe is trying to symbolize how crazy he believed society to be at the time. The beating heart symbolizes the narrators own beating and pounding head. He has just killed a man, and feels guilty, he can still hear the heart beat, slow and steady, of the man he just killed. It's his mind going crazy. These both create a frantic mood for the reader and just make one think that the narrator is absolutely crazy.

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Responding to llamasarecool

Post  jemoria on Tue May 07, 2013 10:09 pm

I agree with both of your symbols that you found, but you never really talked about how they created a mood. I would just maybe say a quick sentence in how they relate. I thought it was really good though! Nice interpretations!

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@jemoria

Post  llamasarecool on Wed May 08, 2013 1:05 pm

Thanks! I agree that I need to mention how the mood is created. I liked the way that you explained the symbols that you find. Nice job!

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CONSORTIUM RESPONSE #7: "THE TELL-TALE HEART"

Post  gbs13 on Wed May 08, 2013 8:17 pm

In the Tell-Tale Heart Poe uses lots of symbols in the story. I believe that one of the main symbols in this story is the old man’s eye. This is a very important symbol and it represents all the bad things in society. The fact that it is described as a vulture eye would suggest to me that it also represents the unfair judging that occurs in society. With this symbol Poe is trying to show how it is bad and how it can drive people mad like how the narrator did when he decided to kill him. This is further instilled when he says that he wants to kill him because of the eye. This shows that it is only because of the negative aspects that are causing the troubles just like in society. The heartbeat is also a symbol. I think that the heartbeat represents the shame and guilt that the narrator feels. When he hears it through the floorboards I think that it is symbolizing how he isn't able to escape this shame that he feels. All together this creates a mood of mystery, nervousness, and tension.


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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  DTMF on Wed May 08, 2013 8:18 pm

There are many examples of symbolism in this story by Poe. The old man's eye, or the Evil Eye, is rooted in folklore, sometimes revered as a g-d. There is an old saying that the Evil Eye sees everything and is all-knowing. I think this is what Poe is referring to whenever he mentions the Evil Eye. The main character is insecure about having someone know him and his identity too much and this is what drives him to kill the old man. The main character creates the mood of paranoia and the result of not fixing the problem right away. The old man's heartbeat is another symbol. The heartbeat, in my opinion, represents the main character's own heartbeat in that it gets faster as the deed is coming ever nearer to completion. The main character is nervous and impatient, which is evident in the heartbeat getting faster and faster as the story progresses. The heartbeat can also signify the ups and downs in life: sometimes dull moments, sometimes exciting, vivid moments.


Last edited by DTMF on Wed May 08, 2013 8:25 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : didnt include mood in first response)

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Responding to llamasarecool

Post  gbs13 on Wed May 08, 2013 8:22 pm

I thought that you did a really nice job with your response. You choose some good examples (I had the same ones) and did a nice job fully explaining them. Someone has already said this but the only other thing is that you didn't discuss the mood of the story in your response. Great job though!

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relating to gbs13

Post  DTMF on Wed May 08, 2013 8:23 pm

very different response than mine, I hadn't thought about the eye being a symbol of society. I think the heartbeat can mean more than what you said, however. Overall, very nice!

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@ llamasarecool

Post  DTMF on Wed May 08, 2013 8:30 pm

I hadn't even thought of the shutters in the room as a symbol. Nice catch! Relating to my post about the all-knowing Eye, I think the shutters also represent the old man knowing too much of the outside world and trying to either stem the flow of knowledge or stop it all together.

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Responding to jemoria

Post  gbs13 on Wed May 08, 2013 8:31 pm

I really liked your response. I thought that you did a nice thorough job explaining your chosen symbols. You also did a good job at relating it to society and then tying in the mood of the poem and how the symbols affect it. Good job!

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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  ecl123 on Wed May 08, 2013 9:14 pm

In "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe there is many symbols. The main one that many others have seemed to detected is the old man's eye which symbolized all the negative aspects of society. The man expresses his distaste towards this eye (society) and eventually ends up killing the man, however in society you may hate parts of it but you cannot just shut out society as a whole, you have to learn to deal with and possibly work around the things that irk you. The beating and increased speed of the man's heart after the killing relate to the buildup of stress to the point where you can not endure any more and just snap/

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RE to jemoria

Post  ecl123 on Wed May 08, 2013 9:21 pm

I really agree with your post, especially the last few lines when you talk about the mood it creates, it is definitely frantic and made my heart speed up. Nice job!!

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Responding to ecl123

Post  jemoria on Wed May 08, 2013 10:46 pm

I agree with you that the old man's eye symbolizes society and like that you related it back to how you can't just kill all of society because you don't like it. Good job!

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Response to "The Tell Tale Heart"

Post  sadie24 on Thu May 09, 2013 12:10 am

In "The Tell Tale Heart," the author uses many symbols to contribute the mood of the story. The creepy, film covered eye is the most important symbol in the story. It could represent the old man's inability to see the world for what it really is. The watch is an obvious symbol for time, especially how slowly time seems to be moving. The man killing the old man with the bed is very interesting. Since we sleep in a bed, that is the place where we are at peace and we feel the safest. We are also at our most vulnerable, which is why the fact that he is killed with his own bed is symbolic.

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response to ecl123

Post  sadie24 on Thu May 09, 2013 12:13 am

I really liked your response because I didn't think of the symbolism the same way you did at all, but I loved your ideas!

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response to jamoria

Post  sadie24 on Thu May 09, 2013 12:15 am

I think your response was well thought through and well worded. You had some very interesting ideas! Nice job.

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The Tell-Tale Heart

Post  Dark Woods on Thu May 09, 2013 12:58 am

While many people immediately looked to the old man's eye for symbolism i saw it in the beating that the narrator claims comes from the old man's heart. Whether the narrator is or isn"t actually insane as he claims not to be is up to the reader to decide, but i definitely saw guilt behind the beating of the dead man's heart. While the narrator claims that this sound, this beating and thrumming of a stopped heart, drove him to surrender and turn himself in it's quite likely that it was the guilt that caused him to do this.
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Response to sadie24

Post  Dark Woods on Thu May 09, 2013 1:03 am

I thought it was cool that you brought in that reference to him being killed with his bed despite a bed seeming to be a safe place to most people.
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Response to DTMF

Post  Dark Woods on Thu May 09, 2013 1:06 am

I liked how you discussed the mood of the story and looked deeper into the description of the evil eye to find motive.
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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  TheKeeper00 on Thu May 09, 2013 8:37 am

In the Tell Tale Heart there is a lot of symbolism one thing is the old mans eyes which could represent the old mans myopic view of life.
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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  TheKeeper00 on Thu May 09, 2013 8:40 am

Response To Dark Woods i really liked how you thought of the old mans heart really creative
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response to

Post  TheKeeper00 on Thu May 09, 2013 8:43 am

I really like how you mentioned the bed in your response and how beds are places of rest
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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  scribbledskies on Thu May 09, 2013 10:35 pm

I actually am dissecting this poem in English- I just thoroughly annotated and analyzed it today!

@gbs13 Agreed, there are lots of symbols including the lamp, the watch, the bed, and of course the old man's eye. Also vultures, as the eye is compared to a vulture many times.

@llamasarecool I love the shutters insight! Very clever.

I think the questions that arise are- is the narrator truly mad? He's reflecting on the past, on this moment of murder. The first time I read this I was sure the theme was about guilt, but then I realized he is not guilty of murdering the old man: he is afraid of getting caught (by the policemen, by the neighbors). Is the whole point of this story to justify why it wasn't his fault that he murdered the old man- it was his Eye's?

He's obviously a disturbed and paranoid man. Why does he wait 8 nights to kill the old man? Also I believe it's HIS heart he hears at the end of the story, not the old man's.

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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  Jmo on Sun May 12, 2013 2:27 pm

One example of symbolism in "The Tell Tale Heart" is the sound he heard from under the floor boards. There is not really a sound, it is his own guilt that causes him to hear a heart beat.
"It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath --and yet the officers heard it not."

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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  Jmo on Sun May 12, 2013 2:31 pm

@scribleskies
That's a good point about the heart beat being his own.

@Dark woods
I agree that the heart beat is symbolic for his guilt.

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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  31544 on Tue May 21, 2013 6:33 pm

The old man's eye is filmed over, and seems dull and possibly sightless. The narrator claims that his madness was merely over-acute senses. Thus, the old man could be seen as the non-mad part of society, and the narrator's frustration with their lack of superior sight causes the chill that comes across him when he sees their eyes. The bedroom, a symbol of peace and security, is marred by the narrator's murder of the old man (as be was murdered in and practically by his bed, horribly perverting the bed's usual safety). This creates a mood of tension and often revulsion and horror.
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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  31544 on Tue May 21, 2013 6:35 pm

[quote="TheKeeper00"]In the Tell Tale Heart there is a lot of symbolism one thing is the old mans eyes which could represent the old mans myopic view of life. [/quote]

Just a little bit short... but good insight on the eye.
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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  31544 on Tue May 21, 2013 6:38 pm

[quote="DTMF"]There are many examples of symbolism in this story by Poe. The old man's eye, or the Evil Eye, is rooted in folklore, sometimes revered as a g-d. There is an old saying that the Evil Eye sees everything and is all-knowing. I think this is what Poe is referring to whenever he mentions the Evil Eye. The main character is insecure about having someone know him and his identity too much and this is what drives him to kill the old man. The main character creates the mood of paranoia and the result of not fixing the problem right away. The old man's heartbeat is another symbol. The heartbeat, in my opinion, represents the main character's own heartbeat in that it gets faster as the deed is coming ever nearer to completion. The main character is nervous and impatient, which is evident in the heartbeat getting faster and faster as the story progresses. The heartbeat can also signify the ups and downs in life: sometimes dull moments, sometimes exciting, vivid moments.[/quote]

Interesting societal connection (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_eye). I like the differing take on the eye.
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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Post  TeamDizzieKappa19 on Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:17 am

I saw the lantern as a beautifully woven symbol in this story of madness, mayhem, and murder. Poe says that the lantern cast a dim strand of light, just enough to light up the man's face slightly but to give him a veil of darkness. This thin dull stream of light is not because the lantern was poorly crafted, which would have made it out of the narrator's control, but in fact it was because the narrator chose to only allow a little bit of light to shine through. This shows off that the narrator is insane even before the madness truly begins by showing that even though he is terrified by the darkness surrounding the man, and he has the power to let in more light, he does not. He has the power to dispel his own fear, and yet he chooses to hold onto it.

Response to Dark Woods: I agree with you, but I feel as though you missed the importance of this in what Poe is trying to say which is that guilt is comparable to madness and that in fact guilt drives one mad, and madness makes one feel guilty. There is no difference to Poe as is seen in this story. This makes one wonder about Poe's ideas about doing the wrong thing, such as murdering someone. Because he doesn't say that killing people or doing other immoral things are mad, no he says that feeling bad about doing said things is mad.

Response to Sadie2: I really liked what you said about the bed. It is really symbolic how the old man gets murdered in the same place where most old men die peacefully, in their bed. So not only does it give us as the readers a sense of false security when we are in our own beds, but it also sets up a foil between the death in this story and the most common (and most preferable) cause of death for the elderly.

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Re: Consortium Response #7: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

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