SHINING IN THE DARK

EDGAR ALLAN POE

A Tell Tale Heart

About the story:
It is a story told by an unnamed narrator who endeavors to convince the reader of his sanity, while describing a murder he committed. The murder is carefully calculated but ultimately the narrator's guilt manifests itself in the form of the sound - possibly hallucinatory - of the old man's heart still beating...

The idea for the story:
Edgar Allan Poe based his plot on two literary sources that can be pointed out with confidence, for there is evidence that Poe saw them. The chief inspiration was a description by Daniel Webster of a real crime committed in Massachusetts, when John Francis Knapp employed Richard Crowninshield, Jr., to rob and kill Joseph White. The criminals were apprehended and Crowninshield committed suicide, but Knapp was brought to trial and convicted for the crime. A contributory source is "A Confession Found in a Prison in the Time of Charles the Second," by Dickens. In it a murderer tells how he killed his little nephew for his fortune, and placed his chair over the child's secret grave in the presence of two visitors. Dickens' criminal disliked his nephew partly because he could not look the child in the eye.

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