The behavior of the narrator in The Tell-Tale heart demonstrate characteristic that are associated with people with obsessive-compulsive disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. When Poe wrote this story in 1843 obsessive-compulsive disorder and paranoia had not been discovered. However in modern times the characteristics demonstrated by the narrator leads people to believe that he has a mental illness. Poe's narrator demonstrates classic signs throughout the story leading the reader to believe that this character is mad Most psychiatrists believe that when a person suffers from paranoia they most likely have paranoid schizophrenia. According to Frederick Frese chief psychologist at Ohio mental hospital, Paranoid schizophrenia is defined as " excessive concern about one's own well being, sometimes suggesting the person holds persecutory beliefs concerning a threat to themselves or their property." Some characteristics are "confusion; indecision; nervousness, suicidal and homicidal thoughts. People with paranoia tend to believe that they have super sensitive hearing.
They hear inanimate object taking to them or voices that don't exist "Many People with schizophrenia go through periods of getting better and worse. They have remission and relapse. They can go for long periods of time without any symptoms (Frese 13) In the case of Poe's narrator, he showed symptom of paranoia He believed that his old room mate's eye was evil." One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture- a pale blue eye, with a film over it." (Poe 117) The narrator comments that he liked the old man but didn't like his eye. The narrator justifies the murder by believing that the old man will vex him.
The irony here is that the old man is murdered because he is considered a madman by one who is himself insane. The narrator believes that by killing the old man he can get rid of the curse that the eye possesses. He is paranoid that the old man will figure out his plan so he takes extra precaution to be extremely kind to him. The narrator states that he has a disease that has "sharpened" his senses. His over sensitive ears have made him hear things that don't even exists. The old man's eye and heart set him over the edge, He had to kill the man to stop the look of the eye and to quiet the beating of the heart.
After the death of the old man, the narrator takes the time to dismember the corps. There was no blood because he was cleave enough to dismember it in a tub. He did not have to worry about anyone find out about the murder He hears the knock at the door and opens it because he had nothing to fear. As he sits with the police officers, he acts calm like nothing has happened. He soon believes that he can hear the sound of the old mans heart beating thought the floorboard. It grows louder and louder and as this happens the narrator becomes paranoids that the officers can hear it too.
It is to much for him and he must admit his deed. " I admit the deed-tear up the planks- here, here! - It is the beating of his hideous heart." (Poe 121) The narrator thinks that the organ of sight, the Evil Eye, is so vexing; but in the end, a sound, the beating of the old man's heart, is what condemns the madman. Another disorder that the narrator demonstrates in this story is obsessive-compulsive disorder. The clinical definition according to "thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over again that feel out of your control. Obsessions are accompanied by uncomfortable feelings, such as fear, disgust, doubt, or a sensation that things have to be done in a way that is 'just so'. People with OCD typically try to make their obsessions go away by performing compulsions." Poe's character demonstrated a classic sigh of OCD, once the narrator conceived the idea to rid him self of the eye, it haunted him day and night.
Like other OCD people in order to rid him self of this compulsion he had to perform it. Performing rituals may give the person with OCD some relief from anxiety. This started his next compulsion. Every night at midnight he would "turn the latch of his door and open it - oh, so gently.
The time spent to put his head in the door shows that he had to see the eye. He was obsessed with this eye. Every night this task was preformed. Then on the eighth night the narrator's hand slipped alerting the man that there was something in the room. The old man wok up and didn't not return to sleep. The narrator had to continuous check on the old mad because he feared losing control of the situation.
When he did however he knew that he had to kill the old man After killing the man his compulsion was gone he no longer need to kill.