The Tell-Tale Heart

the tell-tale heart“The Heart” is a short horror story by Edgar Allen Poe. In it, the describes how cleverly and carefully he or she has planned and carried out a murder. The narrator’s purpose in telling the story is to convince the audience that he or she is not . There are a number of aspects to the story, perhaps the greatest being that in trying to prove his or her sanity, the narrator clearly demonstrates the opposite.

At the very beginning of the story, the narrator tells us that he or she has always been very nervous, and that this had improved his or her senses. Being nervous at times is quite normal, and certainly not a disease. What Poe is talking about here is a medical condition known at the time as .

Pre-Intermediate Vocabulary Help / Exercises

The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Pre-Intermediate level 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

There is also a word that is in our Pre-Intermediate word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. We are told that the old man’s eye had a cloudy film over it. Here the word means a thin layer on or over the surface of something. Poe is most likely describing a , which of course could be easily treated in today’s world.

Intermediate Vocabulary Help / Exercises

The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Intermediate level 1800 word list are: , , , , , , evil eye, , hideous, , lantern, , , , ray, , , , , , , and vulture.

There are two further words that are in our Intermediate word list but have a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used:

  • The narrator tells us that his disease has sharpened his senses. Here the word ed means to make something better.
  • Shortly after this, the narrator says: “You fancy I am mad.” As a verb, one of the meanings of is to think or believe something.

General Comments on the Story

It is interesting that Poe did not identify the narrator, either by or in terms of his or her relationship with the old man. He or she could be a friend, relative (perhaps even a child) or care-giver. This s both characters, leaving only the conflict between a crazed mind and whatever is represented by the “evil eye”.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of this story is the way that Poe develops the character of the narrator. I can’t see any indication of psychological studies in Poe’s biography. Nevertheless, his exhibits five characteristics recognized today as being common among people suffering from “nerves” (GDA). These are: 1. difficulty sleeping (sitting up in bed late, listening to deathwatch beetles in the wall); 2. irrational fears (afraid of the old man’s “evil eye”); 3. perfectionism (telling us several times how carefully he or she planned and carried out the murder); 4. self-doubt (trying to justify why he or she is not mad); and 5. panic attacks (his or her loss of control in front of the policemen at the very end of the story).


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tell-tale(adj: tell-tale also telltale) Indicating that something exists or has occurred (often something a person would not wish to be known). She found lipstick on his shirts - the telltale sign that he had another girlfriend. (ซึ่งเปิดเผยความลับ)
(n: tell-tale pl tell-tails) A device or object that automatically gives a visual indication of the state or presence of something.

dracula book cover(adj: gothic) Used to ​describe writing or ​films in which ​strange things ​happen in ​frightening ​places. Common characteristics are depressing settings (haunted houses and other dark or mysterious places), supernatural beings (ghosts, vampires, zombies, etc), and high emotions (isolated or fallen heroes, romance, tragedy, madness, etc). 8000

narrator(n: narrator pl narrators) Someone who tells a story; a storyteller. (ผู้เล่าเรื่อง) 7000

insane(adj: insane) 1. Not sane, mad; having or showing severe mental illness. The murderer was found to be insane. (ซึ่งขาดสติ) 2. (informal) Very foolish. It was insane to think he would give you the money. (ไร้เหตุผล) 4000
Note: Nowadays, some people consider this word to be offensive. The phrase mentally ill is preferred.

(adj: ironic) 1. Used to describe a result or situation which is the opposite of what was intended or expected. It is ironic that the robber's car crashed into a police station. 2. Using words that mean the opposite of what you really think, especially in order to be funny. “What a beautiful view,” he said, as he looked out the window at a brick wall. (เชิงเยาะเย้ย) 3000

disease(n: disease pl diseases) An illness that affects a person, animal, or plant; a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally. She has the measles. She's suffering from kidney disease. (โรคภัยไข้เจ็บ) 2000

nerves(n: nerves, noncount) The medical condition known today as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GDA), characterized by uncontrollable and often unnecessary worry about common occurrences and situations. (ความเครียด) 2000

floor board(n: board pl boards) A long, thin, flat piece of wood. They nailed some boards over the broken window. (กระดาน) 1000

breathe(v: breathe, breathes, breathed, breathing) To move air into and out of your lungs; to inhale and exhale. He was breathing hard from running. (หายใจ) 3000

cruel(adj: cruel, crueler, cruelest) Used to describe someone who hurts others and does not feel sorry about it (โหดร้าย), or something that causes or helps to cause pain or suffering. (ซึ่งก่อให้เกิดความเจ็บปวด)
(n: cruelty pl cruelties) 1. Something which causes pain or suffering. 2. The quality or state of being cruel. (การกระทำที่โหดร้าย) 3000

evil eye[idiom] (n: evil eye) A look that someone gives other people that is believed to have the power to injure or harm them. (ตาปีศาจ)

explode(v: explode, explodes, exploded, exploding) 1. To suddenly break apart with a loud noise, sending parts flying outward. (ระเบิด) 2. To move with sudden speed and force. The race horses exploded out of the starting gate. (เกิดขึ้นในทันทีทันใด)
(n: explosion pl explosions) The act of exploding. (การปะทุ) 3000

fear(n: fear plural fears) A feeling of being scared or frightened; a worried feeling caused by being aware of danger or something unpleasant. (ความกลัว) 2000

hideous(adj: hideous) 1. Very ugly or unpleasnt. The room was filled with hideous furniture. A hideous crime. 2. Causing great harm or fear; terrible. A hideous disease. (น่ากลัว) 5000

joke(n: joke pl jokes) Something said or done to cause laughter. She meant it as a joke, but some people took her seriously. I heard a funny joke yesterday. (เรื่องตลก) 2000

knock(v: knock, knocks, knocked, knocking) To make a loud, sharp noise by hitting or tapping something (especially a door to get someone to open it). (เคาะ) 1000

lantern(n: lantern pl lanterns) A light for outdoors that has a glass covering to protect it from the wind, rain, etc. and can be carried by a handle. (ตะเกียง) 8000

nervous(adj: nervous) Having or showing feelings of being worried and afraid about what might happen. (กระวนกระวาย; เครียด)
(adv: nervously) In a nervous way. (อย่าง ประหม่า) 3000

(v: not move a muscle) [idiom] To stay completely still. She sat without moving a muscle as the nurse gave her an injection.

ray(n: ray pl rays) A thin beam of energy (such as heat, light, X-rays) that comes from an object. (รังสี) 2000

scream(v: scream, screams, screamed, screaming) 1. To suddenly cry out in a loud and high voice because of fear, pain, surprise, etc. 2. To say something in a loud and high voice because you are angry, afraid, etc. (กรีดร้อง) 3000

sense(n: sense plural senses) 1. One of the five natural powers of touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. (ประสาทสัมผัส) 2. A physical or emotional feeling that you experience. A sense of hunger/pain. A sense that something isn't right. (ความรู้สึก) 3. The ability to think clearly and show good judgement. Common sense (การวินิจฉัยที่ดี) 1000

vulture(n: vulture pl vultures) A type of large bird that eats dead animals and has a small and featherless head. (นกแร้ง) 8000

wrap(v: wrap, wraps, wrapped, wrapping) To cover something by winding or folding a piece of paper or cloth around it. (คลุม; พัน) 2000

film(n: film pl films) 1. A special material that is used for taking photographs. (เยื่อบาง ๆ) 2. A story, play etc shown as a motion picture in a cinema, on television etc.; a movie. (ภาพยนตร์) 3. A thin layer on or over the surface of something. A film of ice covered the sidewalk. (คราบ) 1000

cataract(n: cataract pl cataracts) A medical condition in which a part of your eye (called the lens) becomes cloudy and you cannot see well. His grandmother developed cataracts. (ต้อ) 9000

a light heart(n: a light heart) [idiom] A feeling of being carefree and happy. She left for Europe with a light heart, knowing that her children would be fine. (เบิกบานใจ)
(adj: lighthearted) 1. Having or showing a carefree and happy nature; lightsome. a lighthearted mood 2. Not serious. a lighthearted comedy (ร่าเริง เบิกบาน)

beneath(prep: beneath) 1. In a lower position than; under; below. Beneath the floorboards. (ข้างล่าง; อยู่ใต้) 2. Not worthy of; not good enough for. It is beneath my dignity to do that. (ไม่คุ้มค่า)
(adv: beneath) 2. In or to a lower position; below or underneath. They watched the boat breaking up on the rocks beneath. (อยู่ข้างล่าง; อยู่ข้างใต้) 4000

blood run cold[idiom] (v: make your blood run cold) To cause someone to be very frightened. The thought of the damage such a bomb could do made my blood run cold. (ขวัญหนี)

bold(adj: bold, bolder, boldest) 1. Not afraid of danger or difficult situations; brave. (กล้าหาญ) 2. Very confident in a way that may seem rude or foolish. He boldly asked his boss for a raise. (ก๋ากั่น) 3. Very noticeable or easily seen. Bold colors. (สะดุดตา) 4. Thick and clear. Bold fonts. (หนาและชัดเจน) 3000

chill to the bone[idiom] (verb: chill to the bone; chill to the marrow) 1. To make or become very cold. The icy wind chilled us to the bone. 2. To make or become very frightened. The sound of someone at the window chilled me to the bone.

daybreak(n: daybreak, noncount) The time of day when sunlight first begins to appear; the break of day; dawn; sunrise. (ฟ้าสาง)

groan(v: groan, groans, groaned, groaning) To make a low, deep sound because of pain or some strong emotion, such as great sadness or disappointment. The wounded man groaned with pain. 2. To make a low, deep sound because of great weight or pressure. The chair groaned under his weight. (คราง) 5000

instant(n: instant pl instants) A very short period of time; a moment. For an instant, I forgot where I was. (ชั่วระยะหนึ่ง)
(adj: instant) Happening or done without delay; immediate. His latest play was an instant success. (ทันที) 3000

pale(adj: pale, paler, palest) Having a skin color that is closer to white than is usual or normal, either because it is your natural color or you are sick or scared at the time. (ซีด) 3000

a pity(n: a pity, singular) Something that causes sadness or disappointment. It is a pity you can't come to the party. (ความเสียดาย) 3000

presence(n: presence, singular) 1. The fact of being in a particular place; the state of being present. The committee requests your presence at Thursday's meeting. (การอยู่ในที่นี้) 2. A way of moving, standing, speaking, etc. He'll be remembered as a caring teacher with a warm presence. (กริยาท่าท่างที่โดดเด่น) 4000

skill(n: skill pl skills) 1. The ability to do something well that comes from training, experience, practice or natural ability. (ฝีมือ) 2. A job or activity that requires training and practice; an art or craft. (ความเชี่ยวชาญ)
(adj: skilled; skillful) Having a lot of skill. (ซึ่งมีทักษะ) 2000

(adj: steady, steadier, steadiest) 1. Not shaking or moving; held firmly in one place or position. You need a steady hand to be a surgeon. (มั่นคง) 2. Not changing as time passes; constant. Prices have remained steady over the last month. (ต่อเนื่อง) 3. Happening or developing in a continuous and usually gradual way. There has been a steady increase in prices. (สม่ำเสมอ)
(adv: steadily) In a steady way. His work is improving steadily. (อย่างมั่นคง; อย่างต่อเนื่อง; อย่างสม่ำเสมอ) 3000

terror(n: terror, noncount) A very strong feeling of fear. The sound of guns being fired fills me with terror. There was a look of terror on her face. (ความหวาดกลัว) 4000
(adj: terrified) Very scared or afraid; filled with terror. (ทำให้น่ากลัวมาก) 3000

thread(n: thread pl threads) A long, thin piece of cotton, silk, wool, etc., often used for sewing. (ด้าย) 4000

tub(n: tub, tubs) 1. A large container used for washing clothes etc. (ถังน้ำ) 2. A bath. He was sitting in the tub. (อ่างอาบน้ำ) 3. A small container with a lid. A tub of butter/ice-cream. (ถังไอศกรีม) 5000

villain(n: villain pl villains) 1. A person who is wicked or of very bad character. (วายร้าย) 2. A character in a story, movie, etc., who does bad things. (ตัวโกง) 6000

sharpen(v: sharpen, sharpens, sharpened, sharpening) 1. To make something sharp or sharper. sharpen a knife/pencil (เสี้ยม) 2. To make something clearer or more distinct. sharpen an image (คมชัดของ) 3. To make something better. sharpen one's skills. (ปรับปรุงให้ดีขึ้น) 2000

fancy(adj: fancy, fancier, fanciest) 1. Not plain or ordinary; decorated. A fancy cake. 2. Very expensive and fashionable. A fancy restaurant. (หรูหรา)
(V: fancy, fancies, fancied, fancying) 1. To want to have or do something. Do you fancy another drink? 2. To think or believe something without being sure. I fancy we've met before. (นึกฝัน) 2000

gender(n: gender pl genders) 1. The state of being male or female; sex. Please state your name, birth date, and gender. 2. In the grammar of some languages, any of a number of classes into which nouns and pronouns can be divided [such as masculine, feminine, neuter]. (เพศ) 4000

dehumanize(v: dehumanize, dehumanizes, dehumanized, dehumanizing) To treat (someone) as though he or she is not a human being. Inspectors have observed terrible factory conditions that dehumanize workers.

(n: protagonist pl protagonists) The main character in a story, play, movie, etc. whose conflict starts the plot in motion. Often but not always the hero or "good guy". (ตัวเอก) 12000