Tell-Tale Heart Themes of Guilty and Clash
The “Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Monkeys Paw” written by Edgar Allan Poe and W.W Jacobs respectively are gothic classical stories written in the 20th century. Edgar Allan Poe was a renowned writer of horror short stories, essays, short stories plays and novels. The second author also wrote extensively on the same genre. The two short stories depict an already tensed atmosphere in which the authors effectively narrate their stories are majorly centered on death. The stories depict the fulfillment of various wishes that unfortunately go wrong. Death appears to be the major and the clearest theme in the two stories. Guilty and the clash of opposing forces, however, dominate the stories making the encounters realistic and interesting though supernatural. The two themes are however developed differently in the two stories mankind each experience authentic.
Edgar Allan Poe in the “Tell-Tale Heart“ unravels the story of a person, a caretaker, obsessed with the desire to get rid of his host’s eye (Poe 1). W.W Jacobs in “The Monkeys Paw” tells the story of a suffering family, the white’s, from the wishes they make in the name of a monkey’s paw (Jacobs 2). The paw given to the family by a distant family friend Sergeant-Major Morris is cursed. Although the characters in both cases are granted their wishes, guilty still eats up their souls as it could be in a real-life situation (Carvalhao, Buescu and Duarte 115). In “Tell-Tale Heart”, the protagonist rumbles with both guilt and innocence. He killed his caretaker to prove his sanity to the outside world. People think that he is too nervous a condition which they refer to as a disease. To prove his identity the caretaker resolves into killing his host. He thinks that this is a well-calculated decision that could not be fulfilled by an insane person. Ideally, the sound of the thundering heart is the protagonist’s guilty conscious confronting him for his deed.
The narrator ends up confessing his act simply because he could no longer conceal his guilt. He says, “I felt that I must scream or die! and now –again! –hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! (Poe 3)” He thought that the heartbeat which had grown loud was from his victim and the police would as well hear it. The guilt leading to confession is however not congruent with the narrator’s character. The narrator had disassociated himself from the crime and had thought that he will not regret his actions. In the end, he was not only unable to justify his deed but also to conceal his guilt. This disqualified his belief of sanity.
W.W Jacobs in “The Monkeys Paw” does not reveal any feelings of guilt in any single character in the story. However, it is very clear from the turnout of events that the Whites are very guilty of their greed. The first wish that comes with the death of their son is the beginning of misfortunes. The fact that it is guilty that drives the duo into making the second wish is undeniable. Mrs. White pushes her husband to make a wish that could return their son back to life something which her husband gives in to though with hesitation. When Mrs. White goes to respond to the knock at the door her husband out of guilty makes the third wish, “and frantically breathed his third and last wish. (Jacobs 7)” The person knocking at the door was definitely their son. Mr. White, however, does not think that it is the son he knew as his body had been deformed from the accident and had been buried for a week. Unlike in the first story, the theme of guilt, in this case, is less exploited though evident. The difference in the two themes is brought about by the use of different points of view; first person and the omniscient.
The theme of a clash between two opposing forces is evident in the two stories. The two authors hint how characters in a literary work strive to create and stabilize their identity (Dom 24). The identifiable distinction in the theme in the two texts is the origins of the clashing ideologies. In the first story by Allan Poe, the narrator is content with his personality and character. Intrinsically, he knows that he is not insane. He justifies his sanity by saying, “If still, you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body (Poe 1).” However, those around him think that he is insane and oversensitive. In order to gain public approval, he has to get involved in a careful precision of murder which he believes could only be executed by a sane person. In this case, the protagonist is at odds with the society surrounding him.
In the story “The Monkeys Paw” the Whites are content as the old man suggests, “I don’t know what to wish for, and that’s a fact,” he said slowly. “It seems to me I’ve got all I want (Jacobs 3).” They had everything that constituted a happy family before the arrival of the family friend who had toured India. The World traveler destroys the tranquility in the family by narrating Indian magic and giving evil warnings. The monkey paw was an ultimate token of the hazardous external world. Welcoming Sergeant-Major Morris fully changes the atmosphere of their home. In this story, it is only a single character, Sergeant-Major Morris, who leads to the creation of tension/conflict.Texts written in a similar setting are much likely to depict similar themes. Literary texts though fictional draw much from the reality. The proposition explains why critics view texts as mirrors through which the society is viewed. The role of creativity in literary texts is to enhance author’s development techniques. This enables authors to explore similar themes differently each time gaining attention from the audience.