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The Tell-Tale Heart Commonlit Answers

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  • 8th Grade
  • Lexile: 830

Source: The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Assessment Answers

Which statement best describes a major theme of the story?People can never truly escape the terrible things they have done.
PART A: In the story, what causes the conflict between the narrator and the old man?The narrator is terrified of the old man’s blue eye and overwhelmed by the sound of his heartbeat, so the narrator kills the old man.
PART B: Which of the following quotes best supports the answer to Part A?“The disease had sharpened my senses – not destroyed – not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.” (Paragraph 1)

The correct quote that directly supports the narrator’s conflict with the old man due to his eye would be:

“I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.”

This quote directly addresses the narrator’s motivation for the murder, highlighting the fear and obsession with the old man’s “vulture-eye” as the root cause of the conflict.
Which of the following best describes the significance of the beating heart throughout the story?It represents the narrator’s guilt and worsening
sanity, for the beating heart serves as a reminder
of his crime.

Compare and contrast the narrator’s point of view at the beginning to the end of the story. Note any differences and the possible causes behind these differences.

At the beginning of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the narrator is adamant in proving his sanity, despite acknowledging his nervousness. He boasts of his heightened senses, particularly his acute sense of hearing, which he claims results from his disease.

He insists that these heightened senses do not make him mad but, rather, more alert and aware.

The narrator presents himself as calm and calculated, detailing with pride the meticulousness and caution with which he planned and executed the murder of the old man. His initial confidence is rooted in his belief in his ability to commit the perfect crime, driven by his obsession with the old man’s “vulture-eye.”

By the end of the story, however, the narrator’s point of view shifts dramatically. After the murder, his confidence begins to wane as he becomes increasingly consumed by guilt, represented symbolically by the beating of the old man’s heart he claims to hear.

This sound, which grows louder and more insistent, drives the narrator to a state of panic and terror. His initial calm and calculated demeanor crumbles, revealing his deteriorating sanity.

The story culminates in his confession to the police, a stark contrast to the beginning, where he is keen to demonstrate his sanity and intelligence.

The differences in the narrator’s point of view from the beginning to the end of the story can be attributed to the overwhelming guilt and psychological torment he experiences after committing the murder.

Initially, he is consumed by his obsession with the old man’s eye, which he believes justifies his actions. However, after the deed is done, the reality of his crime and the fear of its discovery begin to unravel his mental state.

The imagined sound of the beating heart symbolizes his acute guilt and the impossibility of escaping his conscience, despite the physical elimination of the eye that tormented him. His progression from a state of pride to one of panic and confession illustrates the powerful impact of guilt and the inevitability of its confrontation, challenging his initial claim to sanity and control.

Discussion Answers

The narrator claims he is not mad-do you believe him? What constitutes madness? Cite evidence in your answer that either supports or disproves this claim.

The narrator’s claim of not being mad is highly questionable when analyzed through the narrative he provides and the actions he describes. The very insistence on sanity, coupled with the extreme behaviors exhibited, suggests a deep-seated madness.

The definition of madness can vary, but it often includes a departure from rational thought, delusions, and an inability to perceive reality as it is.

Evidence suggesting madness includes:

  1. Obsession with the old man’s eye: The narrator’s fixation on the old man’s “vulture-eye” as the sole reason for murder is irrational. An ordinary, sane person would not be driven to commit murder over such a trivial matter as disliking someone’s eye. This obsession indicates a detachment from reality and rational thinking, hallmarks of madness.
  2. Hearing things that aren’t there: The narrator claims to hear the old man’s heart beating after he has killed him, even going so far as to believe that the sound grows loud enough to be heard by the police officers. This auditory hallucination suggests a break from reality, indicative of psychosis.
  3. Extreme measures to prove sanity: The narrator goes to great lengths to demonstrate his sanity and meticulousness, such as how carefully he planned and executed the murder and how cunningly he concealed the body. This overemphasis on rationality in the midst of an irrational act paradoxically highlights his madness.
  4. The confession: Despite having seemingly gotten away with the murder, the narrator’s guilt and paranoia manifest in the imagined sound of the heart, leading him to confess to the crime. The irrational fear and guilt overpower his initial cunning, revealing a lack of control over his mental state.

Support for the claim of sanity might be argued through:

  1. Detailed planning and execution of the murder: The narrator describes with great detail the careful planning and execution of the old man’s murder, suggesting a level of foresight and control over his actions, which could be seen as evidence of rational thought.

However, when considering the overall context and the nature of his actions and justifications, these actions rather underscore a profound irrationality cloaked in the guise of methodical planning.

The dissonance between his perceived rationality and his irrational actions, his delusional beliefs (such as the idea that the old man’s eye could cause him harm), and his auditory hallucinations strongly support the interpretation that the narrator is indeed suffering from madness.

His inability to grasp the morality of his actions and the disconnection between his perception and reality further attest to his unstable mental state.

How does fear drive action? What does the narrator fear and why? Use evidence from this text, your own experience, and other art, literature or history in your answer.

In “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, fear is like the engine behind almost everything the narrator does. It’s like when you’re scared of something, maybe a spider or the dark, and that fear makes you freeze up or do something fast to escape what’s scaring you.

For the narrator, his big fear is the old man’s weird eye, which he says looks like a vulture’s eye and makes his blood run cold. Because of this fear, he decides to do something super extreme – he plans to kill the old man just to get rid of the eye!

The narrator also fears getting caught after he commits the murder. This fear makes him super careful about how he hides the old man’s body, taking the floor apart and hiding it so no one could find it. But then, another kind of fear kicks in – guilt.

Even though he thinks he’s gotten away with it, he starts hearing the old man’s heart beating under the floorboards. This isn’t really happening; it’s all in his head because he feels guilty and scared of what he’s done.

From what I’ve learned and seen in movies, fear can make people do all sorts of things, like in “Harry Potter” when Ron faces his fear of spiders. It shows that facing your fears is important, but the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” lets his fear control him until it destroys him.

In history, fear has driven a lot of big decisions too. Like in the Cold War, the fear of nuclear war affected how countries acted toward each other, building more weapons even though they hoped they’d never have to use them.

So, fear can push people and even countries to act in ways they might not if they weren’t scared. In the story, the narrator’s fear of the old man’s eye and of getting caught for what he did drives him to murder and then to madness. It’s a pretty intense way of showing how powerful fear can be.

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