“The Tell-tale heart” is Edgar Allan Poe’s shortest short story and possibly the most famous. It was first published in 1843 in The Pioneer.
It is the story of a madman who, like most madmen, believes that he is completely sane. The story is told in the first person, the reader really feels that he/she is in the presence of this madman through his nervous speech. He tells us that he had to kill the old man and that it wasn’t because of hate or because he wanted the old man’s wealth but because he just couldn’t stand his eye any longer; that he had no other choice. ‘‘The Tell-Tale Heart’’ is at the same time a horror story and psychological thriller. Very little was known about the workings of the human mind, everything was still being discovered and Poe used this information as raw material like no other writer.
The madman kills the old man, cuts him into pieces and hides the body (parts). The neighbours hearing the noise call the police, when the police come to enquire after the old man he manages to convince them that the old man is out and would have got away with it had he not insisted they come in for tea. His madness takes the better of him and he betrays himself as the old man’s heart incessantly beats (in his mind) and he tells the police what he has done. Brilliant!