Edgar symbolism in The Tell-Tale Heart and The

Allan Poe is one of the most famous authors
in American history. His tightly build, heart-gripping short stories
has left everyone impressed and as he is well known for his poetry,
he is well know for his prose as well. Symbolism is the most integral
part of Poe’s short stories and it is necessary to understand it,
so that his short stories can be understood completely. In
essay, the symbolism in The
Tell-Tale Heart
and The
Black Cat will
be analysed and the importance of it explained.

Tell-Tale Heart is
a short story that
is evolved around the unknown narrator and the old man whom the
narrator wants to murder. The old man possesses the “evil eye”
and when the narrator finally manages to kill him and buries him
under the floorboards as for officers not to find him, he can still
hear the old man’s heartbeat which ultimately makes him confess.
old man’s “evil eye” plays an important role in the story. It
is blue with some sort of “film” or “veil” that covers it. It
is not completely clear what is represents exactly, but it can be
interpreted as the characters of this short story having problems
with their viewpoint towards the world – their inner vision is
unclear. For them, everything is undisclosed and it is hard for them
to depict the world and its surrounding. That can be connected with
the reading of this short story – everything is hazy, unclear. It
is read through this hazy eye and it makes readers confused.

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Even though the eye is hazy and
sees things unclearly, it sends chills down the narrator’s spine
and it makes narrator feel uncomfortable. It is implied in the text,
once the narrator hides the body, that not even the old man’s eye
can see it anymore which brings the conclusion that once upon a time,
that eye could see some things that were not in plain sight. The eye
can also be connected to the heart. As mentioned before, what makes
the narrator confess is the rapid heartbeat he hears that only grows
louder and louder and even though the officers who are in the house
do not hear it, it still makes the narrator confess. That alludes to
the eye wanting to see and be seen again. Another instance when its
connectivity to the heart is shown is when the narrator shuffles the
light towards the open eye, so the heart beats an alert as to protect
the eye.

What the narrator pays the most
attention to is the “vulture eye” aspect of it. He is so obsessed
with it, he mentions it
the total of three times. It is said that vultures watch for sick or
those dead. However, it is unknown if the old man is that kind of
person. The point is not in that though. The point is that vulture is
what he is to the narrator. The narrator’s fear raises the question
of his “aliveness”.
He might as well be dead or almost dead if his fear of vulture is so

Another symbol that frequently
appears in the story is a “watch”. It is mentioned four times and
it is there to watch time and to “tell tales of time”. Poe uses a
watch as a device that is bringing us closer to the death of the old
man. On the eighth night, which is the night that the old man dies,
the comparison is made by the narrator as he sees himself as a watch.
He is the one controlling and playing with time, calculating
carefully when he will exactly kill the old man. It is all in his
hands and he is not ashamed to admit it.

The heart of the old man can also
be interpreted as being a watch – in a metaphorical sense, of
course. The heart watches everything and it counts down seconds and
minutes that lead up to the old man’s death. After the old man
dies, it stops. Heart stops working just like the watch stops
working. However, a while later, it comes back to life to tell its
own story – to tell about the death and the time of death and that
way cleverly making the narrator stop being a watch. The
narrator is, again, just human.

The third symbol appearing is the
lantern. What is interesting is how the narrator never lets much
light into the room. He always lets only one ray out – and it is
all for his advantage. The lantern is what he can use against the old
man. It is what ultimately helps him in killing the old man when the
light hits his “evil” eye. There is also a possibility of it
subtly hinting that nothing is completely dark – that there is
always a little ray of light shining through the cracks – even in
this story.

As the last symbol that is
important to the story it is simply – bed and the bedroom. However,
the bed in this story is not used in a traditional sense that it is
known for. What narrator does is that he uses the old man sleeping as
an advantage for his activities and plan. The bed, as a symbol of
piece and rest, is given a completely different role, as the narrator
murders the old man with his own bed. It is turned into a murder
weapon, therefore the bedroom is a place of murder and not the place
to rest and sleep.

The Black Cat is
another one of Poe’s gripping mystery stories. It is about the man
who kills the cat but seems to later on haunt him in the form of
another cat. When talking about symbolism, the black cats are
characters as well as symbols. The first cat is named Pluto and it is
completely black from head to
toe. It
is a large cat and it is intelligent more than your normal can and
very perceptive. The cat is living a normal life at the beginning,
its owner loves him and takes car of him. However, later on, its
owner starts abusing him, kicking him and mistreating him, not
believing it to be “just a cat”. In the end, he is killed by his
owner because he believes the cat to be some sort of a demon. The
right perspective of Pluto is not easy to have, as it can be looked
at from both perspectives: the one where the owner is just mad and
Pluto is only a cat, or the one where the owner is right and the cat
is not so normal after all, or maybe where it is both of these two
options combined.

is a possibility for Pluto to being an allegory for a murdered slave.
He is hanged from the tree, so the interpretation is not completely
stretched. A slave had no rights. Their life was in their owner’s
hands and the owner could decide what he wants to do with them. It
could be argued that the story tried to show how both people and
animals alike, needed more protection from the legal side than they
actually had. In Poe’s time, slavery was still much alive and
Poe expressed the fear of it in the form of the black cat. Another
symbol that Pluto might represent is that of a child. The narrator
and his wife have no children, but still the story is heavily
revolved around family and home. Both animals and children depend on
adults when it comes to protection and care. This idea is supported
by the narrator referring to the second cat’s cry as that of “the
sobbing of a child”.

difference between Pluto and the second cat is that the second cat
misses an eye and has one white spot, therefore it is not completely
black. However, according to the narrator that white spot only grows
wider as the time goes by. It is not known why the cat misses the
eye, although it is most likely it is from some kind of abuse. The
narrator claims that the cat is some supernatural creature – almost
as if Pluto came back from death to torture him and make him feel
guilty for killing him. Then again, if the cat is looked from the
point of view of being a supernatural creature, even a monster, it is
not clear why the cat only waited to be on the verge of death before
crying out and why it even cried in the first place.

the cats, there is a symbol of a nightmare. The cat is described as a
“Night Mare” by the narrator himself. He keeps having bad dreams
because of him, so
at one point he stops sleeping all together. For all of story, it is
unclear whether the narrator is conscious and aware of his actions,
whether he is sleeping and imagining it all or if maybe he is
somewhere between those two states. Even the narrator says how often
he is to doze off, so the combination of those two realities is what
most likely occurs in the end. However, he says the situation is
completely cat’s fault. He sees it as a sign of something evil and
makes him feel guilty for what he has done. He starts sleeping only
when the cat is murdered and when his wife is not there anymore as

last integral symbol that will be mentioned is the weapons that the
narrator used. It
could be even seen as weird when taking into consideration the
weapons he uses. Then again, Poe probably wanted to disturb the
reader with the image of a cat hanging from the tree. What is even
more disturbing is the gallows on the fur of the second cat because
gallows is a structure that is used to hang people. If it is taken
into consideration that slavery was still well and alive though, then
Poe was probably no stranger from seeing someone (probably black)
hanging from a tree.

in Poe’s poetry is often used to make the reader uncomfortable, to
make the reader scared. It is also used as a suspenseful motif and
the symbolism is what keeps the reader interested in reading Poe’s
work. It
affects his short stories in many ways and they keep things
intriguing and keep the reader guessing. His symbols are either very
clear or very unclear and there can be many guesses made what they
actually represent. 


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