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Madness and Insanity

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madness and insanity
Madness and Insanity
  • As with the majority of Poe’s works ‘The Tell-tale Heart’ is told in the first person. This allows readers to experience the immediacy of a spoken conversation when we are addressed from the very start of the tale (second person personal pronoun ‘you’). “…why will you say that I am mad?”
Don’t forget that the narrator is trying to communicate for a particular purpose: he argues for his own sanity- he wants to convince the audience that he is not only sane but also intelligent.
But unreliability and fallibility may cause a rift between the narrator and his audience. Readers learnquickly that his judgment is seriously impaired.
what tells us this
What tells us this?
  • The narrator himself
  • The narrators actions
In "Tell-Tale," we have a great example of structural irony.
  • This means that the whole tale involves a particular, stable set of relationships among the author, the narrator andthe reader.
  • There is an ironic distance between the author and the narrator that is established as soon as the reader determines that the narrator is insane and the author doesn't want us to trust the narrator.
At what point in the narrative did you begin to doubt the narrator?
  • When did you deem him insane?
In order for the reader/audience to uncover the fallibility or unreliability of a narrator, the author will drop clues that are sometimes direct (self-evident lies or wild exaggerations) and sometimes indirect (strange tone shifts or inappropriate reactions). What are some of those clues in "The Tell-Tale Heart"?