Ronald Reagan once said “I am not smart enough to lie. ” Lies require a person to be extremely meticulous in fashion. One lie starts a chain reaction leading to more and more lies, and sometimes a different lie for a different person. It is like lying about an alibi in court. In order to stick to the alibi, more and more lies form, and eventually the lawyer finds things that do not match add up. Keeping all of the lies straight is so hard that mistakes are inevitable. In The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe shows that lying and covering up the truth is essentially impossible unless that person bares no conscience.
In one way or another, whether it be on a conscious or unconscious level, people tend to betray themselves. Even the old man lied to himself in order to calm down, but eventually the truth caught up to him. As the narrator sat quietly in the room after he accidentally made a clamor, he thought of what the old man was thinking, and he said, “He had been saying to himself-‘It is nothing but the wind in the chimney-it is only a mouse crossing the floor,’ or ‘it is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp'” (Poe 577). The old man was trying to convince himself that the racket he heard was nothing but the wind or a mouse.
There was not a possibility that someone was creeping into his room, or that was what he hopes. Then the narrator went on to say, “Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions; but he had found all in vein. All in vein; because Death, in approaching him, had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim”(Poe 578). The old man just could not believe the lies he was telling himself because his conscious enabled the truth to linger in the back of his mind, and the truth was that someone was creeping in his room waiting for him to fall asleep.
The narrator of the story faces a different struggle between himself and the truth. He was tormented by guilt after he murdered the old man, and so much so that he began to hear the old man’s heart beat even after he was dead and buried. Kalu Singh, a civil servant and a Sessional Counselor in a University Counselling Service, stated, “The voice of guilt is like a maddening, trashy pop song-unstoppable, a loop, a Laingian knot” (“Guilt” 1). The guilt will build up inside like lava until it eventually overcomes him, and he can no longer keep it inside.
At the end of the story when the police came to inquire about the noise the neighbors heard, the narrator thought to himself, “The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease” (Poe 579). The narrator was proud of himself because he thought that he had done a splendid job, and it was no wonder that the officers did not find anything wrong in the house. Then he begins to think again, “But, ere long, I felt my self getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears… until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears…
It was a low, dull, quick sound-much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton” (Poe 579). The guilt haunted him in the form of the old man’s heart beating, and finally he cracked. He said, “Villains (the police officers)!.. dissemble no more! I admit the deed! -tear up the planks! -here, here! -it is the beating of his hideous heart! ” (Poe 580). The narrator was so paranoid that, even though the police knew nothing about the murder, he thought that they too heard the heart beat, and would refuse to leave until the truth was found.
A man without a conscience is a man without any worries. That man might be able to tell a lie and murder without even an inkling of guilt. However, a man with a conscience is not so lucky. That man can not be at ease until the truth has been told. Consider the words of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the bible by John, “The truth will make you free” (The King James Version, John 8:32). Nothing but the truth will bring peace, and the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” learned this by the end of the story. The truth will always surface and bear up against falsehood, just as oil does above water.