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The insanity of the narrator in edgar allen poes the tell tale heart

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Since there are dozens of commentaries and reviews here and elsewhere on the internet, in the spirit of freshness, I will take a particular focus: In The Painter of Eyes by Jean Richepin, we encounter an obscure artist who sells his soul to the Devil in order to paint at least one masterpiece.

There is a bit of writing attached to the corner of his great painting that reads: That secret consists of decanting the life from the models one wishes to represent and fixing that life on the canvas. In doing that, one slowly kills the people whose portrait one paints. It is sufficient for me to know that I have made this masterpiece. I commend my soul to the prayers, in case the Evil One does not leave me the time.

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In The Gaze another story by Jean Richepin, the narrator peers through the window of a cell at a madman holding his arms spread, head uplifted, transfixed by a point on a wall near the ceiling. The doctor-alienist relates to the narrator how this inmate is obsessed with the gaze of eyes from an artist's portrait.

So much so, the doctor took a scissors to the painting. And what makes this portrait so infatuating? Why, of course — the gaze of the right eye, which is truly enigmatic. The old man has his close friend steal the portrait from the museum so he can put it in his attic and sit in front of the painting, pondering the enigmatic gaze round the clock.

The servants think the old man mad but he could care less — he has exactly what he wants — the portrait with its enigmatic eye right in his very own attic. Unfortunately, something unexpected happens. The old man concludes there is only one thing for him to do — he buys some brushes and oils and begins re-painting the portrait, starting with the enigmatic eye. And why would he want to kill this old man, a man who never wronged him?

Yes, it was this!

He had the eye of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Perhaps part of the answer is given by contemporary Argentine author, Ernesto Sabato, when he says that hell is being the object of the gaze of another.

For example, we read how the narrator, lantern in hand, secretly peers in at the sleeping old man at midnight. But then, one night, a noise wakes the old man and he sits bolt upright in bed. And what does the narrator do?

The Tell-Tale Heart

So I opened it — you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily — until, at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open — wide, wide open — and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. What a tale; what an author — a masterpiece of suspense and horror.

  • The old man concludes there is only one thing for him to do — he buys some brushes and oils and begins re-painting the portrait, starting with the enigmatic eye;
  • So much so, the doctor took a scissors to the painting;
  • It was open — wide, wide open — and I grew furious as I gazed upon it;
  • The servants think the old man mad but he could care less — he has exactly what he wants — the portrait with its enigmatic eye right in his very own attic;
  • So I opened it — you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily — until, at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye;
  • What a tale; what an author — a masterpiece of suspense and horror.