The Tell Tale Heart

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Irony is clearly misunderstood by most people today who tend to confuse it with nothing so literary as a bummer of an unintended coincidence. Irony in the traditional literary sense revolves around a recognized (or sometimes not, depending on the audience) contradiction between the words that are written or spoken and the actual intent of those words.


The writer of irony here is Poe, of course, and not the narrator since the narrator appears to be entirely oblivious to the ironic component of his monologue. Or is he While convention critical analysis of "The Tell-Tale Heart" engages the story from the point of view that the narrator's attempt to prove his sanity is an exercise in irony, his clearly deluded state of mind can just as easily be interpreted as a brilliantly conceived plot to escape extreme punishment for his crime by convincing the people that he is insane when he is not.
In a sense, "The Tell-Tale Heart" contains the nugget of an idea that would be fleshed out to novel-length status in Joseph Heller's Catch-22. The catch-22 in the narrator's case is that he would clearly be sane if he attempted to prove his innocence, but if he doesn't try to prove his innocence he will most likely receive capital punishment. One of the fascinating aspects of this story is that it remains unclear to whom the narrator is addressing his appeal to be found sane. ...
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