The action of the recounted tale takes place in the house the narrator shares with the old man.
He says that he is going to tell a story in which he will defend his sanity yet confess to having killed an old man.
Again, he insists that he is not crazy because his cool and measured actions, though criminal, are not those of a madman. In the morning, he would behave as if everything were normal.
After a week of this activity, the narrator decides, somewhat randomly, that the time is right actually to kill the old man. When the narrator arrives late on the eighth night, though, the old man wakes up and cries out.
The narrator remains still, stalking the old man as he sits awake and frightened. The narrator understands how frightened the old man is, having also experienced the lonely terrors of the night. Worried that a neighbor might hear the loud thumping, he attacks and kills the old man.
He then dismembers the body and hides the pieces below the floorboards in the bedroom. He is careful not to leave even a drop of blood on the floor. As he finishes his job, a clock strikes the hour of four.
At the same time, the narrator hears a knock at the street door. The police have arrived, having been called by a neighbor who heard the old man shriek.
The narrator is careful to be chatty and to appear normal. He leads the officers all over the house without acting suspiciously.
The policemen do not suspect a thing. The narrator is comfortable until he starts to hear a low thumping sound.
He recognizes the low sound as the heart of the old man, pounding away beneath the floorboards. He panics, believing that the policemen must also hear the sound and know his guilt.
Driven mad by the idea that they are mocking his agony with their pleasant chatter, he confesses to the crime and shrieks at the men to rip up the floorboards. Even Poe himself, like the beating heart, is complicit in the plot to catch the narrator in his evil game.
As a study in paranoia, this story illuminates the psychological contradictions that contribute to a murderous profile. For example, the narrator admits, in the first sentence, to being dreadfully nervous, yet he is unable to comprehend why he should be thought mad.
He articulates his self-defense against madness in terms of heightened sensory capacity. This special knowledge enables the narrator to tell this tale in a precise and complete manner, and he uses the stylistic tools of narration for the purposes of his own sanity plea.
However, what makes this narrator mad—and most unlike Poe—is that he fails to comprehend the coupling of narrative form and content. He masters precise form, but he unwittingly lays out a tale of murder that betrays the madness he wants to deny.
Poe explores here a psychological mystery—that people sometimes harm those whom they love or need in their lives.
Poe examines this paradox half a century before Sigmund Freud made it a leading concept in his theories of the mind. The narrator thus eliminates motives that might normally inspire such a violent murder.
He reduces the old man to the pale blue of his eye in obsessive fashion. The narrator sees the eye as completely separate from the man, and as a result, he is capable of murdering him while maintaining that he loves him.
By dismembering his victim, the narrator further deprives the old man of his humanity.SparkNotes are the most helpful study guides around to literature, math, science, and more.
Find sample tests, essay help, and translations of Shakespeare. Richard Fariña: Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me New York: Random House, April 28, Click on covers for larger images and more info.
Click here for reviews and literary criticism. "I been down so long, seem like up to me.
Download free guides. Writing a controlled assessment (CA) or exam essay based on a story can seem difficult not only because stories are often long, but also because the language of story-telling is often so seemingly ordinary and everyday. These are some of the many databases available to you as a member of Middletown Thrall Library: Artemis (now Gale Literary Sources) Searches the following databases (described below): Literature Criticism Online, Literature for Students, Literature Resource Center, and Something about the Author.
Richard Beeman. Richard Beeman was a faculty member as well as dean of the college at the University of Pennsylvania for forty-three years. He held a Ph. D. from the University of Chicago and is the author of eight books on the political and constitutional history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers, The most widely known and best-loved American poet of his lifetime, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow achieved a level of national and international prominence previously unequaled in the literary history of the United States.