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The Tell-Tale Heart

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The Tell-Tale Heart Enrichment Activities

"Why will you say that I am mad?"

Throughout this story, the narrator repeatedly claims to be sane. Highlight the phrases where the narrator insists on sound mental health, collect the phrases, and paste them into your word processor. What do these repeated claims actually tell the reader?

The Narrator's Delusions

As readers, we begin to realize that the narrator suffers from paranoia. This means that perhaps not everything the narrator recounts is accurate. Look through the text for passages in which the narrator describes a sensation, experience, or belief that you think might not be grounded in reality. For example, do you think the ticking sound the narrator hears is real, or is it just in the narrator's mind? Why do you think Poe would choose to tell his story from the perspective of this delusional narrator? Write down your thoughts or discuss these questions with a friend.

Point of View

Poe has written this story in the first-person point of view, which means that the narrator tells his or her own story using the pronouns "I," "me," and "my." In other words, the narrator is a character in the story. Another narrative perspective often used in stories is the third-person point of view, in which the narrator is not a character in the story. In the third-person point of view, the narrator describes the actions and sometimes the thoughts of the characters using pronouns like "he," "she," and "they."

a. When reading stories written in the first-person point of view, like this story by Poe, it is important to keep in mind that the narrator is not the author. Also, the narrator's gender is not necessarily the same as the author's gender. In this story, Poe never actually specifies the narrator's gender. Most people assume that the narrator is a man, but do you think it's possible that the narrator could be a woman? Discuss this with a friend.

b. Choose a passage from the story and rewrite it in the third-person point of view. Step outside of the narrator's mind and describe the scene as if you are observing the narrator in action. Begin by changing the pronoun "I" to "he" or "she." If you like, give the narrator a name. You can choose whether or not you want to include some of the narrator's thoughts. Add as many of your own details as you like. How does changing the point of view change the feeling of the story?

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