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The Psychological Disorder Of Poe's The Tell Tale Heart

1228 words - 5 pages

In his essay "On the Nature of Man", Lavater expounds his opinion that " an intimate correlation exist[s] between man's spiritual internal essence and his physical constituent parts" (Lavater 98). Human beings experience life trusting that eyes are lenses to the outer world without comprehending the very fact that eyes mirror the interior more than the exterior part. Many literary works discuss this physical-psychological bond, but none is as perfect and profound as Edgar Allan Poe. In his story "The Tell-Tale Heart", Poe accumulates perversity, madness, paranoia and self-destruction to play on the "Eye" pun. The narrator uses this pun to embody all the symptoms of psychological ...view middle of the document...

Also, the film covering the eye supports this idea and puts an emphasis on the misunderstanding of the previously mentioned concepts. The narrator neglects the fact that what he sees is what he has deep inside. The brutality, savagery and ferocity repressed in the narrator's unconsciousness are actually projected onto the old man's eye and not "eyes" so as for the pun to work out. Such a hypothesis assures that the old man is essentially the manifestation of the narrator's unconscious. But Daniel Hoffman suggests another interpretation relating to the oedipal castration. He declares that, "the old man is a father figure, and the narrator comes to hate the surveillance of the child by the father" (Hoffman 223); therefore, the eye functions as the gaze of the father and surrogates the father's intimidating penis. In other words, the old man symbolizes the paternal power over which the child rebel and "rid [him/her] self of the eye forever" (317). Whether the old man represents the unconsciousness of the narrator or his/her father figure, the eye remains evil for carrying two contradictory laws, one proudly favoring the harsh law, and the other abandoning all laws for its own interest (Wang-chi Ki 28).
Secondly, the unhealthy soul from which the narrator suffers is due to the divergence between his/her physiognomic components. That definitely leads to more anxiety, tension and psychological illness. "The Physiognomical meaning of Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart'" announces that a healthy soul must find a harmony in the human being as "animal, moral being and intellectual one" (Pitcher 231). However,
the second and third aspects are the ones we are interested in for discussing Edgar's story. The moral being resides in the heart while the intellectual lies in the head and centrally in the eye. Nevertheless, the narrator's psychological chaos will be understood from a different perspective if readers consider "the eye as a symbol of reasoning and intellect and the heart as a symbol of morality"(Gargano 181). So, when the narrator decides to kill the old man's reasoning eye and moral heart in attempt to demonstrate his/her health, he/she actually increases the dose of insanity. The narrator, when watching the old man before killing him, says," the hellish tattoo of the heart increase[s]" (Poe 319). It means that humanitarian morals are trying to alarm our narrator. However, the narrator abandons the call of the heart and even that of the eye because he kills the old man when his eyes are "wide open". The opening of the old man's eye invites the narrator to think reasonably about his deeds,...

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