This section highlights the main elements of our analysis of the story “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe.

The story’s plot structure features narrative techniques such as backstories and foreshadowing. The text features the confession of a man who tries to prove that he is not insane by explaining how he committed a premeditated murder.

The main character of the story is an unnamed narrator. The old man he kills and the police officers are secondary characters.

The events take place in a house, in an unspecified city, adding to the story’s sense of mystery. The social setting explores views on insanity during the 19th century.

The events are described by a first-person narrator. The narrator is unreliable, as he is clearly mentally ill and further describes himself as having supernatural senses.

The language is written in a formal style, lacks dialogue, and is written as a monologue or a confession made in retrospective. One of the most important symbols is the old man’s vulture eye, a symbol of the conflict between the narrator's mind and heart.

You can find a full analysis of the story in the following pages.

Further help

Short story analysis

For more advice about analysing short stories, you can read our general guide to short story analysis.