Seeing the Heart Through the Eye Essay

Submitted By Jeffrey-Malone
Words: 792
Pages: 4

Symbolism is important to any literary work. It provides meaning to the writing beyond what is actually being stated. Symbolism in a literary work develops theme and characters while transcending the work to another level. In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “Tell Tale Heart”, symbolism plays a crucial role in the plot of the story as well as the development of characters. The heart and the eye serve as the most significant symbols in this work and Poe uses them throughout the course of the story to advance plot and characterization. The still beating heart in “Tell Tale Heart” symbolizes the human aspect of the narrator. Throughout the story, the narrator presents himself as an animalistic character, void of all human emotions and feelings and completely incapable of sympathetic actions towards others. The narrator takes pride in his actions and believes that he has committed the perfect murder. He goes on to state, “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” (“Short Stories”). He spends most of the story trying to convince the reader of his sanity by justifying his actions, again showing his disconnect from reality and humanity. However, with the beating of the old man’s heart, the narrator becomes human. The final heartbeats of the old man bring doubt into the narrator’s mind as he reveals “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” (“Short Stories”). The heartbeat, or the narrator’s hallucination of its presence, eventually brings him to confess his crimes to the police proclaiming, “’Villains!’ I shrieked, ‘dissemble no more! I admit the deed! - tear up the planks! here, here! – it is the beating of his hideous heart’” (“Short Stories”). The human heart in “Tell Tale Heart” brings the narrator to hold human emotions and characteristics that were not previously exhibited. The eye, much like the beating heart, serves as a symbolic essence in “Tell Tale Heart.” The eye, which is often thought of as a representation of one’s true self, symbolizes a portion of the narrator’s identity that he refuses to accept. The narrator believes that the eye has the ability to reveal a characteristic of one’s personality that may otherwise remain hidden. He thinks the clouded, pale blue eye reveals something about the old man that no one was able to recognize before. He goes so far as to reduce this man to the single trait of his eye claiming, “I saw the eye with perfect distinctness…I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person” (“Short Stories”). As the story progresses, the reader comes to the realization that the eye represents the narrator, not the old man. The eye, as portrayed by the narrator, is evil and resembles the eye of a vulture. However, these traits more accurately