The Tell-Tale Heart Summary

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

     This Edgar Allan Poe story appears to be a bragging confession of a man who has committed a crime. He keeps insisting that he's not crazy, which makes him seem moreso. He explains how he had to kill his neighbor because of the old man's evil eye, which bothered him. Each night for a week, he would slowly open the door to the old man's apartment and look in on him sleeping. Since he didn't see the eye, he didn't kill him.

     On the eighth night as he was peering in at midnight, the narrator chuckled at the thought of the man not knowing what he was doing, and perhaps the old man heard it because he startled awake. He asked if anyone was there. The narrator froze. After waiting a long while, he decided to open the lantern a tiny bit, and a single ray fell upon the old man's eye. The narrator could hear the old man's heart beating in fear. The beating became louder until the narrator feared the neighbors would hear it, so he decided that he would take this moment to attack. The old man shrieked once before the narrator pulled him to the floor and pulled the bed on top of him. He waited until the beating heart stopped, then pulled off the bed, and examined the body. The old man was dead.

     Very carefully, he dismembered the body in a tub to collect the blood, then buried the pieces under the floorboards. He washed everything carefully and finished around four in the morning. A knock came at the door, and he found three policemen who had been called due to a strange shriek overheard by some neighbors wondering if foul play were involved. The narrator calmly invited the policemen inside and encouraged them to search the place. He explained that the old man was off in the country, and that he was the one who had screamed due to a bad dream. In his supreme confidence, the narrator even brought chairs into the room on top of the floorboards where he had buried the man and invited them to sit down and rest. His own chair was placed directly over the body.

     As they talked, the narrator began to hear a noise coming from the floorboards. He recognized it as the beating heart of the old man. He tried to talk louder to cover it up and wondered if the policemen could hear it too. He knew they must hear it, and they had to suspect what he had done. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore and told them to tear up the floorboards to find the dead body.

Related Links:

The Tell-Tale Heart Quiz
The Tell-Tale Heart Quotes
The Tell-Tale Heart Important Characters
Literature Summaries
Edgar Allan Poe Facts

To link to this The Tell-Tale Heart Summary page, copy the following code to your site: