"The Tell-Tale Heart" is a short story authored by Edgar Allan Poe in which the underlining theme of evil becomes contradictory. Throughout Poe's passages are various instances of the illogical and unreasonable. In particular, the evil is pointed out by the narrator as being a physical evil. However, progression of the story conveys an immediate contrast of a hidden inner evil.
Starting off the narrator claims his sanity, "You fancy me mad. But you should have seen me," (Poe 3). It becomes clear the narrator is defensive about himself and his condition. "But why will you say that I am mad" is a statement that eludes recognition of his latter evil deeds as being an inner driving force (Poe 3). "If you still fancy me mad, you will think so no longer." Here lies yet another description of the narrator's defense proclaiming his sanity which was resounded even after killing the old man (Poe 6). The physical evil as inferred by the narrator, has been blamed upon a single eye belonging to old man.
The eye "haunted" the narrator "day and night" which ran his "blood cold" whenever it looked at him (Poe 3). "It was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye," (Poe 4). After the narrator's reinstatement of his aggravation, a new physical terror overcomes him. The beating of the old man's heart heightened the narrator's "fury" that excited him to "uncontrollable terror," (Poe 5). Not only does this old man have an evil eye, but an accursed heartbeat that "would be heard by the neighbors," (Poe 7). Both fully describe what the narrator contemplates as the physical evils that drove him to murder.
Interpreted from a different point of view is the supposition that the narrator's crime is truly caused from his own inner evil. He hears many things "acute" claiming to originate from both "heaven and hearth" which is obviously not something a normal person hears (Poe 3). The murder appears in many aspects as being premeditated as the narrator proceeds with "caution, foresight, and dissimulation," (Poe 3). The opening of doors and latches are done "oh, so gently" and "cunningly," (Poe 4). On the eighth night of entering the old man's chamber, the narrator claims the old man did not dream of "my secret deeds or thoughts," (Poe 4).
The crime that is about to take place is questionable at this point: is it the evil eye or the narrator's own insanity as the antagonist in the story After killing the old man, the police arrive shortly thereafter. As their conversations grew longer and longer, the narrator hears the beating heart once more that continually grew "louder" and "louder," (Poe 7). This is impossible since he took "wise precautions" and "dismembered the corpse" underneath the floorboards (Poe 6). This marks the narrator as suffering from some sort of delusions. As the heartbeats increased, so did the narrator's temper as he "foamed" and " raved" and "swore," (Poe 7). His frantic behavior leads him to believe that the police were "making a mockery" of his "horror" but they are only chatting casually (Poe 8).
More or less, it seems as if the tale serves as a justification of his terrible deed in order to keep a clean conscience. The narrator's sly actions each night, sense of control, delusions, and erratic behavior are all fueled from within - not from the eye. His guilty conscience destroys the perfect murder when he admits to the deed, (Poe 8). These instances depict the actions of the narrator and portray them as unreasonable when compared through his frame of reference. Outside of the madman's viewpoint lies the eye, nothing more than a scapegoat for the true evil, his own inner evil..