Poe's Stories

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The unfortunate nemesis of the delusional narrator of The Tell-Tale Heart. His vulture-like, evil eye torments the narrator. Yet other than his eye there is nothing to indicate that the old man is anything other than a normal, old man. The old man's terror in the moments before the narrator kills him make the old man seem suddenly more human than the narrator, and the murder is chillingly heartless.

The Old Man Quotes in Poe's Stories

The Poe's Stories quotes below are all either spoken by The Old Man or refer to The Old Man. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Poe's Stories published in 2006.
The Tell-Tale Heart Quotes

I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture.

Related Characters: Narrator (The Tell-Tale Heart) (speaker), The Old Man
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the narrator of the story tries to explain why he killed an old man. The narrator's explanation is that he didn't like the man's eye--which, according to the narrator, resembles the eye of a vulture.

For Poe, the eye is the ultimate symbol of man's irrationality and unpredictability. The eyes are the window to the soul, and thus for the narrator to be repelled by an eye is for him to be frightened by an inexplicable, irrational fear of another person's soul. Put another way, there is no rational motive for the narrator's act of murder--as he makes very clear, he doesn't kill the old man because he hates him, or to get his gold. As with so many of the bizarre and frightening things in Poe's stories, there is no real reason for them to happen; and yet they happen all the same, making them all the more uncanny.

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The Old Man Character Timeline in Poe's Stories

The timeline below shows where the character The Old Man appears in Poe's Stories. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Tell-Tale Heart
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...that there was no passion that provoked it. Instead, it was a strange feature of the old man he lives with, that one of his eyes was different from the other and had... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
...methodical, patient way that he goes about the murder. For seven nights, he creeps to the old man ’s bedroom door, opens the latch, puts an unlit lantern into the room and carefully... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
...the narrator of "Tell-Tale Heart" is particularly gleeful about his sneakiness. He marvels at how the old man knows nothing of his plan. He even laughs a little to himself. But then he... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
For an hour, the narrator of "Tell-Tale Heart" keeps very still and can sense the old man is awake, listening for intruders. The narrator says he knows what this is like. And... (full context)
Rivals and Doppelgangers Theme Icon
The Dead and the Living Theme Icon
The Gothic Style Theme Icon
Self, Solitude, and Consciousness Theme Icon
After a while, without any change to the old man ’s obvious alertness, the narrator of "Tell-Tale Heart" opens the shutter a tiny bit and... (full context)