Pleas of Insanity Essay
The baffling tales of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “A Rose for Emily,” and “My Last Duchess,” the narrators give in-depth descriptions about the characters and their surroundings. The central theme in these tales comes frightfully alive early on in the stories, but still manages to produce a dramatic ending in every tale. In each of these three first-person narratives, the narrator’s motivation to tell the tale influences the credibility of the story, which makes the narrator’s point of view, credibility, and motives, surreal to the reader.
In the heart-pounding tale “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, the narrator leaves no time to get to know the two characters but begins the story by planning the death of the old man’s eye. The narrator’s first person point of view is he is not mad with a disease, but that his disease was a gift. The narrator believes his disease is making heaven and hell call out to him, showing he is unstable early on in this tale (Poe 37). The narrator’s first person point of view throughout this tale is extremely unhealthy and strange. Being told from an “I” point of view leaves out some minor and significant details.
The narrator never discusses how the relationship evolved between himself and the old man, which is usually something a narratee would like to know. Without knowing specific details about characters in the story, it leaves the narratee to wonder if the narrator is a friend, a roommate, or a caregiver to the old man. What the narratee does know is that the old man’s eye is repulsive and evil, but the narrator claims to love the old man (37). The narrator proclaims that the old man never wronged him, that “he had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! ” (37).
Being convinced that he is not mad, the narrator proceeds to get rid of the repulsive eye and quickly grasps the narratees attention by saying, “You should have seen how wisely I proceeded – with what caution – with what foresight – with what dissimulation I went to work” to remove the eye (37). On the eighth night, the narrator loses his so-called insanity and goes in to kill the man. The way the narrator describes the events leading up to the murder of the eye and concealment of the body is precise and sly. The dramatic irony at the end of the tale describes just how delusional the narrator is; his guilt was making “a mockery” of him.
Hearing the heart beating in a ringing tone, louder and louder, he shirked “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks! – here, here! – it is the beating of his hideous heart! ” (40). The narrator hears the heart of the old man at the end of the tale in his head, showing the credibility of the tale and the characteristics of the character. The ending of the story merely describes in one sentence that maybe now he knows he has a disease for the worse. The first person point of view is not always told from an “I” point of view, but can also be told as an objective point of view, best described as a “fly on the wall. In William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” Miss Emily Grierson’s forlorn life is narrated through the gossiping members of Miss Grierson’s town. During the story, the narrators seem to alternate, each one giving different details about Miss Emily’s life. In the beginning of the story, Miss Emily has not been paying her taxes. In chapters one, two, and three, the narrator appears to be someone in the town’s law enforcement. By the narrator using “we,” it gives hints that maybe it is more than one person in the town.
When the deputation visits Miss Emily’s home to discuss her unpaid taxes, the narrator refers to two the city authorities as “they. ” (31). As the chapters continue, the tale becomes narrated by others in the town. When Miss Emily is trying to buy arsenic from the town’s drug store, the narrator knows what is taking place between the pharmacist and Miss Emily. Perhaps it was one of town’s gossipers shopping at the drug store and overheard this conversation, because how else would the narrator give such distinct details such as, “The druggist looked down at her.
She looked back at him, erect, her face like a strained flag” (33). After Miss Emily successfully buys the arsenic, the women of the town begin to talk, “So the next day we all said, she will kill herself; and we said it would be the best thing” (33). By having the tale told through so many different narrators, it makes the motivation of them telling the story seem to justify Miss Emily’s isolation. She obviously had something wrong with her mentally, but who is to say the townspeople with their gossip, stalking, and determination to try to make her extinct to the town did not drive her mad?
The poem “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning is narrated by the Duke himself. The Duke’s motivation to discuss his vague story about his last Duchess to the emissary is so he can ask the Count for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The narration takes place in the Duke’s art gallery, next to the painting of his last Duchess. Trying to understand the choppy dramatic monologue about his last Duchess is quite difficult. The Duke confides in the emissary about how his duchess’s looks went everywhere and his nine-hundred- years- old name was never respected by her (418).
There are just enough details to shatter the Duke’s credibility in the tale, when he vaguely discusses their angry marital problems. The narratee knows the Duke is a man of power in the medieval times, and death was easily sentenced by higher authorities. The Duke makes it quite clear how his Duchess’ heart was, “how shall I say? -too soon made glad, Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er she looked on, and her looks went everywhere” (418). He sounds casually at ease when he speaks about killing her. All he had to do is make one command and all smiles stopped, since they were going everywhere (419).
The three tales bluntly reference death, but none of these first person narratives was similar. In each narrative story, the narrator describes the fear and hatred for the person who dies with the right amount of emotion. Each narrator was led on the path to murder by his or her obsessive sanity; even in “A Rose for Emily” where there were multiple narrators, the town seems to be missing their sanity. All narrators were exceedingly participant in these tales, so the stories seem to jump out at the reader with high credibility and motivated narration.