In Edgar Allan Poe's short-story, "The Tell-Tale Heart," the storyteller tries to convince the reader that he is not mad. At the very beginning of the story, he asks, '... why will you say I am mad?' When the storyteller tells his story, it's obvious why. He attempts to tell his story in a calm manner, but occasionally jumps into a frenzied rant. Poe's story demonstrates an inner conflict; the state of madness and emotional break-down that the subconscious can inflict upon one's self. In 'The Tell-Tale Heart', the storyteller tells of his torment.
He is tormented by an old man's Evil Eye. The storyteller had no ill will against the old man himself, even saying that he loved him, but the old man's pale blue, filmy eye made his blood run cold. And when the storyteller couldn't take anymore of the Evil Eye looking at him, he said, 'I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.' This is the start of the storyteller's madness, and as the reader listens to what he says, the madness within the storyteller becomes very apparent. For eight nights in a row, the storyteller went to the old man's chamber and cast a shred of light upon the Evil Eye that he so hated.
For seven nights, it was always shut, and the storyteller could do nothing because it was only the eye that he hated, not the old man. On the eighth, the storyteller accidentally makes some noise and wakes the old man up. As a result, the storyteller can finally face his tormented. At this point of the story, the storyteller's madness amplifies significantly. For an hour he stood at the old man's chamber door quietly. In his madness, which he insists it's just an 'over-acuteness' of his senses, he believes he hears the beating of the old man's heart.
At first, he reveled in the old man's terror but with every moment that he heard that beating sound his fury grew more and more. The more nervous he became, the faster and louder the beating sound became. When he could take it no more, the storyteller goes into a paranoid frenzy. During this frenzy, the storyteller is afraid that neighbors will hear the beating of the old man's heart. This causes him to take action. He quickly subdues the old man and kills him.
But is it really the old man's heart the storyteller hears? Even after the storyteller kills the old man, he still hears the heart slowly pounding and then finally stopping. Was it the old man's heart, or rather was the storyteller hearing his own heart beat in his ears? As the storytellers rage and excitement grew, so did the sound. It did not go away until after the storyteller slowly calmed down, until after his deed was finished. The storyteller goes to great lengths to conceal the murder. First, he dismembers the body, collecting the blood in the bathtub so that there would be no blood stains anywhere.
He then buries the body parts under the planks on the floorboards in such a way that 'no human eye -- not even his -- could have detected anything wrong.' The storyteller says this is evidence that be cannot possibly be insane because of '... the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body.' In this point of the story, the storyteller is confronted by three police officers. Fearing nothing and trusting his skills of hiding the body, he invites the police officers into the house. He lets them search the house, even leading them into the room where he had buried the body. Sitting and talking in the room the body is hidden, the storyteller once again shows his madness. He begins to feel uneasy when the officers start talking to him.
Throughout most of the story the storyteller keeps his description calm except for a few incidents. At this part, the storyteller losses all control over his emotions. His paranoia begins to build steadily and before long, the he again hears the beating of the mysterious heart, which he again believes is the beating of the old man's heart. But he is sure the old man is dead and buried. This implication gives further evidence to the paranoid nature of the storyteller. The beating grows louder and louder, and soon he is afraid that the police officers will surely be able to hear it.
He thought to himself, 'Was it possible they had heard not? Almighty God -- no, no! They heard! -- they suspected! -- they knew! -- they were making a mockery of my horror!' Thinking about his situation fills the storyteller with fear, and the beating sounds just keeps getting louder. After a rabid inner struggle, he can do nothing but breakdown and confess to his terrible deed, believing that the police officers surely already knew of what he had done. Though the storyteller begs for sanity, it is obvious that he has gone mad. Hearing his own heart and believing it is the heart beat of the old man, and killing the old man simply because he had an 'Evil Eye' is the physical proof of his madness. With the passion he speaks of his murderous act, the reader can see that this is not the voice of a sane man speaking, but of a man gone mad.