“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.
- Original Text with Audio (2209 words)
- Pre-Intermediate English Version
- VOA Learning English Version
- General Understanding Quiz
English Learner Vocabulary Help
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 ““.
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 easily be treated in today’s world.
General Comments on the Story
It is interesting that Poe did not identify the narrator, either by gender 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 dehumanizes 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 protagonist exhibits five characteristics recognized today as being common among people suffering from “nerves” (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). 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).
(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.
(n: tell-tale pl tell-tails) A device or object that automatically gives a visual indication of the state or presence of something.
(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
(n: narrator pl narrators) Someone who tells a story; a storyteller. 7000
(adj: insane) 1. Not sane, mad; having or showing severe mental illness. The murderer was found to be insane. 2. (informal) Very foolish. It was insane to think he would give you the money. 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. 3000
(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. 2000
(n: nerves, noncount) The medical condition known today as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), characterized by uncontrollable and often unnecessary worry about common occurrences and situations. 2000
(n: board pl boards) A long, thin, flat piece of wood. They nailed some boards over the broken window. 1000
(v: breathe, breathes, breathed, breathing) To move air into and out of your lungs; to inhale and exhale. He was breathing hard from running.
(phrasal verb: breathe deeply) To take a lot of air into your lungs. 3000
(adj: cruel, crueler, cruelest) Used to describe: 1. someone who hurts others and does not feel sorry about it; 2. something that causes or helps to cause pain or suffering.
(n: cruelty pl cruelties) 1. Something which causes pain or suffering. 2. The quality or state of being cruel. 3000
(idiom: evil eye) A look that someone gives other people that is believed to have the power to injure or harm them.
(v: explode, explodes, exploded, exploding) 1. To suddenly break apart with a loud noise, sending parts flying outward. 2. To move with sudden speed and force. The race horses exploded out of the starting gate.
(n: explosion pl explosions) The act of exploding. 3000
(n: fear pl fears) A feeling of being scared or worried about something dangerous or unpleasant that could happen. Unable to walk the streets without fear of being robbed. Employees expressed fears that the company would go out of business.
(n: fear, noncount) A feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful. Fear of God. 2000
(adj: hideous) 1. Very ugly or unpleasant. The room was filled with hideous furniture. A hideous crime. 2. Causing great harm or fear; terrible. A hideous disease. 5000
(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. 2000
(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]. 1000
(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. 8000
(adj: nervous) Having or showing feelings of being worried and afraid about what might happen.
(adv: nervously) In a nervous way. 3000
(idiom: not move a muscle) To stay completely still. She sat without moving a muscle as the nurse gave her an injection.
(n: ray pl rays) A thin beam of energy (such as heat, light, X-rays) that comes from an object. 2000
(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. 3000
(n: sense pl senses) 1. One of the five natural powers of touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. 2. A physical or emotional feeling that you experience. A sense of hunger/pain. A sense that something isn't right. 3. The ability to think clearly and show good judgement. Common sense 1000
(n: vulture pl vultures) A type of large bird that eats dead animals and has a small and featherless head. (นกแร้ง) 8000
(v: wrap, wraps, wrapped, wrapping) To cover something by winding or folding a piece of paper or cloth around it. (คลุม; พัน) 2000
(n: film pl films) 1. A special material that is used for taking photographs or recording movies. 2. A story, play etc shown as a motion picture in a cinema, on television etc.; a movie. 3. A thin layer on or over the surface of something. A film of ice/dust. 1000
(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. 9000