“The Tell-Tale Heart” consists of a monologue in which the murderer of an old man protests his insanity rather than his guilt: “You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded . . . ” (Poe 121). By the narrator insisting so vehemently that he is sane, the reader is assured that he is indeed mad. By using this irony the narrator creates a feeling of hysteria and turmoil. People tend to think that insane people are beyond the normal realm of reason shared by those who are sane.
This is not so; guilt is an emotion shared by all humans. The most demented individuals are not above the feeling of guilt and the damage it causes to the mind. Poe’s use of setting, character, and language reveal that even an insane person feels guilt. Therein lies the theme to The Tell Tale Heart: The emotion of guilt easily, if not eventually, crashes through the seemingly unbreakable walls of insanity. For conclusion: setting, character, and language. Through these elements we can easily see how guilt, an emotion, can be more powerful than insanity.
Even the most demented criminal has feelings of guilt, if not remorse, for what he has done. This is shown exquisitely in Poe’s writing. All three elements were used to their extreme to convey the theme. The balance of the elements is such that some flow into others. It is sometimes hard to distinguish one from another. Poe’s usage of these elements shows his mastery not only over the pen, but over the mind as well. Poe uses many gothic styles throughout the story to increase tension.
He uses punctuation, repetition, and imagery. Like many of Edgar Allen Poe’s works, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ is full of death and darkness. Poe used many of the real life tragedies he experienced as inspiration for his gothic style of writing. Poe dealt with many aspects of death and madness in his stories; madness again plays a key role in the plot. In this short story Poe used literary devices such as point of view and symbolism to give it a more dramatic effect and add to the madness the narrator portrays.