Who Watches Over Whom in Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart'? Ageing and the Fictionalisation of a National Allegory
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The change of perception towards youth and age, and by extension, towards national dependence and independence, can be signi cantly detected in the cultural and literary discourses of nineteenth-century America. Edgar Allan Poe depicted the victimisation and stigmatisation of the elderly as a re ection of the American ambivalent perceptions towards the ageing population in mid-nineteenth-century. In Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843), a young narrator acknowledges both his love and contempt for an old man whom he watches over, as he permanently feels the overwhelming perpetual vigilance the old man’s Evil Eye exerts over him, which ultimately urges the narrator to murder his senior. The narrator experiences both freedom and remorse as a result of his crime, feeling both released from his obligations and tormented by his guilt. Taking Poe’s tale as a case in point, this article is aimed at depicting the process of cultural stigmatisation and victimisation of the aged, as well as the unconscious social remorse in nineteenth-century America, as a re ection of the country’s process of growth.