The Role Of Mad Logic In Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart

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Mad Logic To be logical is a rather difficult thing to do. To make sure that every point leads precisely and doubtlessly to the next is something that requires a high functioning mental capacity. It is no shock then that when we come to find a man who is mad, we immediately see his actions as illogical. By definition, a mad man lacks that high functioning mental capacity to logically argue his case. This is where we find our narrator in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” As the madman attempts to justify killing an old man, our understanding of logic and madness is put into question. While it seems like logic and madness are opposites, the ability to which the madman in our story logically justifies his actions suggests…show more content…
Although one might argue that his planning was excessive and useless to the end result, one must still give credit to the amount of attention and care he gives to every detail. It is evident in his intentionality of movement that everything was done deliberately: “I moved it slowly—very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep” (37). What he does here is logical. He does not want to wake up the old man and give himself away, so he is slow and careful in his actions. His consciousness of his movements shows that he knows the consequences of his actions and shows a logical approach to the situation. If he were indeed a madman, and a madman of the earlier definition, it would seem almost unlikely that he would be able to act in such precision or let alone think of doing so. To further this claim, he says, “When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern” (37), showing an extreme amount of patience and cautiousness. The amount of restraint and control he demonstrates makes it unsettling to label him so quickly as mad. On the contrary, he seems more composed and more alert than most. It is not typical in our preconception of what a madman is, to display so much self-control. His actions are fitting to the situation, if not more. Even up to the very…show more content…
Our narrator has just clearly and logically proved that he is not mad. But, he is. The question is how? Perhaps, the problem lies in our definition and understanding of madness. The way that our narrator was able to convince us of his sanity was by using our preconception of madness against us. By our first definition of madness, if our narrator could prove that he was indeed, high functioning, and logical then he could not be mad. By this definition, our narrator is right to say that he is not mad. He was extremely logical. This calls into question our understanding of madness. What does it mean to be mad? What if madness is not the opposite of logic or even the void of logic? Evident in our narrator, madness seems to be a play on and manipulation of logic. The madness of our narrator comes not from what he does but rather the extent to which he logically tried to convince the police, the reader, and himself that he is not mad. He as meticulously manipulated our preconceptions of the relationship of madness and logic and unwittingly deceived the reader that he is not

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