The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, 1843
The magic trick:
The narrator’s defensive stance
What better place to start Halloween week at SSMT? This, of course, is one of the classic examples of unreliable narration in all of literature. The narrator is in full-on defensive mode from the opening sentence. He (or she; it’s never specified) is desperate to convince the reader of his sanity. The problem is that in retelling his story, what he (or she) perceives to be a defense is in fact incrimination. And that’s quite a trick on Poe’s part.
Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. 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! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him.