Literary Analysis Essay on The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Po

Published: 2021-06-29
605 words
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University of Richmond
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The Tell-Tale Heart is a well-known short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It is about an unnamed individual who kills an elderly man for a strange reason and then narrates the murder in order to prove that he is not of unsound mind. Bernice Bobs Her Hair is another short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a wealthy but socially awkward young woman who is taught by her cousin on how to make herself more attractive to men. While Poes story was published in 1843, Fitzgeralds was written much later, in 1920. Hence, their plots are different due to the timeline setting, and are emphasized by conflicts contained in them.

In The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe uses both internal and external conflict to induce suspense throughout the story. The internal conflict emanates from the storys narrator who is rather unreliable, and who reveals himself to have mental health issues early into the story. He asks the readers to take him seriously by saying, .why will you say I am mad? It can be seen that he is trying to convince the reader that he is merely ill as opposed to crazy. The external conflict is between the narrators two main desires. One of them is kill the old man and relieve him from his misery. The other is to pay for it by getting punished for committing the murder.

A notable difference between the two stories is that, while in Poes story the conflict is between a single character, in Fitzgeralds narrative it pits two characters. Bernice, a dull and socially awkward girl from the rural areas, goes to visit her cousin Marjorie who is wild and popular. One day, she overhears Marjorie trash-talking her; something that sets up a major conflict between the two. She swears to take some measures to become outgoing and attractive to men; and goes on to bob her hair. It works as she ends up becoming the most popular female in the town, even snatching her cousins most faithful suitor. However, Marjorie does something that embarrasses Bernice to the extent that her popularity fades abruptly. Bernice decides to go back home, but takes revenge by cutting off her cousins hair while she sleeps.

The Tell-Tale Heart illustrates the psychological conflicts that make someone to be capable of committing murder. For instance, while the narrator admits to be rather nervous, he does not understand why he should be perceived as insane. He expresses a self-defense against madness in terms of an intensified sensory capacity, viewing his hypersensitivity as an indicator of sanity rather than a symptom of an unsound mind. All in all, what eventually gives away the narrators madness is his failure to understand the blend of a narratives form and its content. Although he succeeds in presenting the precise form, he unknowingly blurts out details of the murder in a way that betrays the insanity he wishes to deny.

Fitzgeralds Bernice Bobs Her Hair is an excellent depiction of the conflicting values of people living in rural areas versus those from urban centers. It also looks at womens role in the society at the time and their newly found freedoms. Bernice, hailing from the country, subscribes to protestant moral values such as relationships leading to marriage. On the other hand, Marjorie, a city girl, believes in the latest fashions and feministic attitudes such as bobbing ones hair.


Brooks, L. (2014). From Flapper to Philosopher: F. Scott Fitzgeralds Hidden Cultural Evaluations of American Society in Bernice Bobs Her Hair,The Passionate Eskimo,May Day, and The Hotel Child.

Poe, E. A. (2015). The tell-tale heart and other stories. First Avenue Editions.


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