The many different works of Edgar Allan Poe all aim to do one thing. Strike fear into the heart of the reader. Simple, yet effective, he expresses fear through these many different themes and motifs. In many of Poe’s works he describes the evil drive in men to kill and commit sin. He likes to focus on the downward spiral of the human race instead of romanticising them. The guilt of the narrator is a major theme in ‘‘The Tell-Tale Heart. ’’ The major symbol is the beating heart. Poe chooses a heartbeat because it is human and maddengly persistant.
The thematic subject may be guilt, but the theme is that the human heart cannot endure the burden of guilt, especially in the case of murder. The guilty must confess somehow or be consumed by his or her conscience. Our narrator has this strange capacity throughout the text to hear a heartbeat. This seems to haunt him, but a greater label for the repeated disturbance would be guilt. Having killed someone close to him, he tells on himself but it is hard to identify what occurs as remorse, a feeling we would expect for such a crime so we have to turn to insanity.
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. 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. and thinks he has freedom from guilt, the feeling of guilt over the murder is too overwhelming to bear.
The narrator cannot tolerate it and eventually confesses his supposed ‘perfect’; crime. The emotion of guilt easily, if not eventually, crashes through the seemingly unbreakable walls of insanity. I believe that the theme of “The Tell-Tale Heart” is that all human beings are more than capable of committing senseless crimes, but the guilt will always linger and serve as punishment. This shows how guilt also torments humans after they commit any kind of crime or senseless deed. The readers can also see how the guilt torments the narrator through his inner thoughts.
The narrator describes how he is feeling when he hears the heartbeat and suspects that the police must hear it too. “I felt that I must scream or die! — and now –again – hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER! — ” (Poe n. pag). If this story had been written in another point of view, it would have most definitely not been effective in conveying the theme of guilt. The reader needs to be aware of the thoughts and feelings of the narrator in order to understand how he is hearing the heartbeat of the man in his head.