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The Tell Tale Heart
Transcript of The Tell Tale Heart
First Piece of Evidence for the Prosecution
First Piece of Evidence for the Defense
First of all, the man was hearing things that weren’t really there. In his confession, the man claimed that he had a very acute sense of hearing. He says, “I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell” (1). It sounds as if this man can’t tell the difference between things he’s actually hearing and things that he’s just imagining—you can’t actually hear sounds coming from heaven or hell. If a person who is legally insane has a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality, this man is clearly insane.
The Night of the Crime
The Tell Tale Heart
Aim: How can we effectively defend/prosecute our narrator citing evidence from the text?
Do Now: On a piece of paper answer the following question:
If this man were on trial, do you think he should be held criminally responsible for his actions?
What is the legal definition of insanity anyway???
Quotes that could Help the Defense
I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.
One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture—a pale blue eye with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.
…but I found the eye always closed, and so it was impossible to do the work, for it was not the old man who vexed me but his Evil Eye.
He was still sitting up in the bed, listening; just as I have done night after night hearkening to the death watches in the wall.
…at length a single dim ray like the thread of the spider shot out from the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye. It was open, wide, wide open, and I grew furious as I gazed upon it.
But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me -- the sound would be heard by a neighbour!
I foamed—I raved—I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards,
"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks!—here, here!—it is the beating of his hideous heart!"
Quotes that could Help the Prosecution
Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.
Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight, with what dissimulation, I went to work!
what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses?
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.
There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that.
I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country.
I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed.
Depth of Knowledge
How can you recognize that the narrator is insane in "The Tell Tale Heart"?
What evidence in the story could prove he is insane?
What evidence in the story could prove he is not insane?
Legal Definition of Insanity
Legal Definition of Insanity
In a criminal trial, the word “insanity” means something more specific than when we use it in everyday speech. You can’t say that someone on trial is “insane” just because he did something that most of us would consider “crazy” (like killing someone, chopping up the body, and hiding the pieces under the floorboards.)
That’s because, in a trial, when we say someone is insane, we’re saying that the person didn’t fully understand what he or she was doing and therefore shouldn’t be held responsible for his or her actions. Read the following legal definition of insanity:
Insanity is a mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot manage his/her own affairs, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior. In criminal cases, a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity" will require a trial on the issue of the defendant's insanity (or sanity) at the time the crime was committed.
In this context, "not guilty" does not mean the person did not commit the criminal act for which he or she is charged. It means that when the person committed the crime, he or she could not tell right from wrong or could not control his or her behavior because of severe mental defect or illness. Such a person, the law holds, should not be held criminally responsible for his or her behavior.
(INTERNET SOURCE: www.USLegal.com)
First of all, the killer remembers everything about the crime and can talk about it calmly. In his confession, the killer says, “Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story” (pg 1). A person who is legally insane cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, so he probably wouldn’t have such an accurate memory of everything that happened. If he remembers all the facts about what he did, this proves that he was aware of reality and was not insane.
What conclusion will we come to? In assigned groups of 3, complete the worksheets and be prepared to present to the class your findings!