People use symbols to represent various ideas through the same subjects or events. Symbolism is a common literary device that aims at creating an indelible impression on the reader (Severson). Its importance is the possibility to convey hidden meanings and provoke critical thinking and creativity. Edgar Allan Poe uses multiple symbols in his short stories that establish the connection between his works and life (Jandaghi and Zohdi 315). “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a story about sanity and human sickness, where symbols play a crucial role in underlining the worth of emotions, the environment, and the inevitability of some decisions.
In Poe’s short story, universal and specific symbols prove the uniqueness of his writing style. One of the most evident symbols is the old man’s eye that resembles “a vulture” with “a film over it” and “a hideous veil” (Poe). It is not just a universal symbol of a window that discovers the secrets of a human soul but a quality of life that is distorted with time. A watch with its “minute hand” moving “more quickly” than the narrator’s hand is a symbol of time and inevitable death “in the wall” (Poe). The author represents the watch to provide people with some power to control their lives. Finally, the symbol of bed cannot be ignored in the story. Instead of using it as a symbol of peace and safety, Poe introduces it as a human weakness and vulnerability.
Although most symbols in “The Tell-Tale Heart” are related to death and people’s inability to resist reality, Poe’s work focuses on strengthening the human spirit and underlines the necessity to act. For a long period, his character continues living in fear and doubt, and the task is to change something. Symbols help create an appropriate environment to connect the reader and the author in his mysterious and dark journey.
Jandaghi, Hatameh Sadat, and Esmaeil Zohdi. “Symbolism in Edgar Allan Poe’s Seleceted Short Stories.” Theory and Practice in Language Studies, vol. 8, no. 3, 2018, pp. 314-319.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The Poe Museum, 2021, Web.
Severson, Ken. “What Is Symbolism? Definition, Examples in Literature & Film.” StudioBinder, 2020. Web.