The Tell-Tale Heart (Poe)

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The Tell-Tale Heart
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Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A man obsessed with an old man's disturbing eye decided to kill him. After carefully planning and executing the murder, he hid the body under floorboards. Eventually, he confessed to the police.

A man, who insisted he was not mad, became obsessed with an old man's disturbing "vulture eye." He could not explain how the idea first entered his mind, but once it did, it haunted him day and night. He had no reason to hate the old man, as he had never wronged or insulted him. The man's obsession with the old man's eye grew, and he decided to take the old man's life to rid himself of the eye forever.

In "The Tell-Tale Heart," there are two main characters: the narrator and the old man.

The Narrator — narrator; obsessed with the old man's eye; insists he is not mad; meticulous planner and murderer; increasingly agitated and paranoid.
The Old Man — victim of the narrator's crime; has a disturbing "vulture eye"; unknowingly provokes the narrator's obsession and eventual murder.

The man carefully planned and executed the murder. He was never kinder to the old man than during the week before he killed him. Every night, he would sneak into the old man's room and observe him while he slept. He did this for seven nights, but each time, the old man's eye was closed, making it impossible for him to carry out his plan. On the eighth night, the man was more cautious than ever, and when he finally saw the old man's eye open, he became furious.

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.

He heard the old man's heart beating and, in a fit of rage, killed him.

After the murder, the man dismembered the old man's body and hid it under the floorboards of the room. He was confident that he had left no trace of his crime. However, a neighbor had heard a scream during the night and reported it to the police. When the police arrived to investigate, the man confidently showed them around the house, even inviting them to rest in the room where he had hidden the old man's body.

As the police chatted and searched the house, the man began to feel increasingly agitated. He heard a persistent beating sound, which he believed was the old man's heart. The sound grew louder and more distinct, causing the man to become more and more panicked. He tried to ignore the sound and continue talking with the police, but it only grew louder. Eventually, he could no longer bear the sound and, in a fit of panic, confessed to the murder.

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks! here, here!—it is the beating of his hideous heart!”

He told the police to tear up the floorboards, revealing the hidden corpse of the old man.