How Then Am I Mad

“How then am I mad”? 1
Running head: “HOW THEN AM I MAD”?
“How Then Am I Mad”?
Professors Name
Date of Submission
“How then am I mad”? 2
The tell-tale heart
The Tell-Tale heart is authored by Edgar Allan Pole and was published in 1843. The unnamed
author tries to make one to understand the murder he actually committed. In the narrative, the
victim is an old man with a filmy ‘vulture eye’ as termed by the narrator. He emphasizes his
calculations of the murder, hides the body by dismembering it in the bath tub and hiding it under
the floorboards. In the final analysis, the narrator’s feeling guilty which is soot of a mental
disturbance manifests into him hearing a thumping sound which he takes to be the dead man’s
beating heart. It is unclear the kind of relationship the old man shared with the murderer. The
narrator claims not to have any feelings of hatred or resentment for the old man is a father figure
and denies killing because of greed. Speculations are that the old man is a father figure, the
landlord or the narrator worked for him. It can be deduces that the “vulture eye” represents a
viewed secret or power. There are no details about the two characters in regards to the specific
plot leading up to the murder.
The purpose is to defend/protect the narrator (Eric) and produce evidence that he is not guilty of
the offense of murder therefore doesn’t deserve the death sentence. In this instance the best
defense is that Eric is insane. He is so afraid of death that it has made him mad. Eric is quoted as
saying “very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”
The ‘you’ in this statement is the supporting evidence that Eric is insane hence he isn’t guilty of
a murder offense and can’t be found guilty since he is incapable of properly understanding his
actions and of the world surrounding him.
“How then am I mad”? 3
I present a mental defense. My client is not responsible for his actions due to an episodic/
psychiatric disease he had at the time of committing the act. I therefore plead on behalf of my
client not guilty by reason of insanity. The United State Supreme court (in Penvy vs. Lynaigh)
and the United States Court of appeal of the fifth circuit (in Bigby vs. Detke) have ordered that
the Jury instructions in death penalty eases that do not focus on the mitigating factors towards the
defendant’s mental health violate my clients eighth amendment rights. The Eighth Amendment
(Amendment VIII) of the United States constitution prohibits the federal government from
imposing excessive bail, excessive fees, or cruel and unusual punishment. I urge the court to
instruct the jury to consider the mitigating factors when answering the murder questions. Was
Eric in the right state of mind when he committed the offense? The diminished responsibility or
diminished capacity is mitigating factors to be considered in this case. This is in defense to the
Homicide Act in 1957. My client is not making a plea a diminished capacity but at a partial
defense; but still maintains the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
My client Eric actually committed the act of killing the old man. He chopped him up and id hide
the body parts under the floorboards in the house. When the police went to the house to
investigate strange screams that have been reported by the neighbors, Eric did confess to the
crime. The question here is whether he was in the right state of mind at the time. Was he insane?
He was not in total control of his decisions when he decided to kill the old man. This is not a
premeditated murder taker thinking patience and planning which is not the case here. There is no
evidence that my client Eric was thinking about killing the old man nor is there any way of
deducing that he planned to kill him.
Eric is actually insane in view of the evidence before the court. It has been stated that he thinks
the old man’s sick eye is evil.” For an unknown reason, the old man’s cloudy pale blue eye has
“How then am I mad”? 4
incited madness. Whenever the old man looks at him, his blood turns cold. Thus he is determined
to kill him to get rid of this curse. Although Eris has in actual fact committed the murder, the
issue and focus here should be is Eric to be considered morally responsible or not. In majority of
accidental societies, a person truly insane cannot be held accountable for his act which is the case
here. There is the slippery fish to seize in regards to the moral aspects of gilt in this case. Eric
had no control over his acts, he way be considered a dangerous criminal but not “guilty”
Eric has an obsession with time. This is demonstrated by at what time he does something and
how long it takes to do something. Eric starts the process of sneaking into the old man’s room
“every night at midnight” and it takes him ‘an hour’ to put his head through the door. He
continues to do this for seven nights ‘every night at midnight’ and feels the old man would be
shocked too shocked to learn what he does ‘every night’ just at twelve. On the fateful day ‘for an
hour, Eric did not make a muscle’ as he waited for the old man to get back to sleep. It is
important at this stage to analyze midnight. Midnight is a symbol of death since it represents the
death of the death. Eric’s obsession with killing the old man at midnight in a symptom of his
maniacal fear of death and the need to control it.
Eric hears the beating of the old man. In actual fact he is hearing his own heartbeat. There is no
way Eric could have heard the heart of the old man beating while he was all the way across the
room or even after the old man is dead. Before Eric kills the old man, he hears a low, duel, quick
sound, such as a watch it was the beating of the old man’s heart. Realistically this is impossible.
There is no way that Eric could have heard the old man’s heart beat from across the room. It is
his own heart that he hears. It is the effect of adrenaline that makes him hear the heart beating
faster and growing louder. Eric could not differentiate between his heart beat and that of the old
man because he is insane.
“How then am I mad”? 5
My client compares the sound he hears of the heart beat to that of a watch, something that tells
time. This further proves his fear of death and running out of time.
Vultures are associated with death. Eric was so obsessed with avoiding death that he kills the old
man whose ‘vulture eye’ remind him of it. It is common knowledge that a dead person has no
heartbeat. Eris’s claim that he hears the heartbeat of the dead old man is prove of his insanity.
According to my client, the old man’s time is ticking away. Eric is hearing things that were not
there. During his confession he claimed to have a very acute sense of hearing. Evidence shows
that he heard all things in the heaven and earth and heard many things in hell. Eric cannot tell the
difference between things he actually hears and things that he is just imagining. Eric has a hard
time distinguishing between fantasy and reality. He is clearly insane.
Before killing the old man, Eric stood by the door listening to the heart beat of the old man. “I
though the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me the sound would be heard by a
neighbor! The old man’s hour had come” (Poe 25).Quickly Eric dragged the old man and threw
the bed over him. “Yes he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held there
many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eyes would trouble me no more
(Poe, 25).This statement indicates Eric is psychotic and messed up in the head. While he was
doing the act of killing the old man he probably didn’t realize what he was doing. He could not
distinguish between fantasy from reality. He could not manage his own affairs and he was
subject to impulse behavior that was beyond his control.
“Now I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when
enveloped in cotton” (page 61). This statement is prove that Eric is insane since a sane person
cannot hear the sound that a watch makes when it is in cotton. Only an insane person can hear
things that are actually not in existence. The statement “The right waned, and I worked hastily,
“How then am I mad”? 6
but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs
(page 62) is yet another prove that Eric is insane. A sane individual would probably not brag of
dismembering the body of a victim that they had actually killed.
“I heard things in heaven and in earth. I’ve heard many things in hell” (page 58).This goes
further to prove that Eric is insane. Sane individuals can’t hear things in other realms. I think it
was his eye! Eye it was this! He had the eye of a vulture; a pale blue eye, with a film over it.
Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold and so by degree vary gradually. I made up the
mind to take the life of the old man (page 59).This is evidence that truly Eric is insane. Had he
been sane, he would have ignored the old man. The eyes could not have triggered the feeling of
killing the old man. He did not act out of impulse since he had no impulse control.
Eric would also hear a grains of terror many nights at exactly midnight. The groans of terror
could have a foreshadowing of what he was imagining he could do to the old man. This is a clear
indication of an insane human being. Eric also thought the police officers were laughing at him
because of his horror of the heartbeat. According to him these voices caused him to murder and
the same voices made him give into the police though he could easily have disappeared and
gotten away with murder. These actions cannot be by a sane human being. The hearing of voices
itself is prove that he is insane. Giving up to the police instead of hiding is an indication of him
not having a healthy state of mind.
What my client is hearing at the end of his statements may not be the old man’s heart but death
watch beetles. In his statement Eric has admitted hearing beetles in the wall after startling the old
man from his sleep. Deathwatch beetles in the superstition world is considered as a sign of
impending death. Henry David Thoreau stated in an article published in 1988 that deathwatch
beetles make sounds similar to a heartbeat. There is the possibility that the beating could have
“How then am I mad”? 7
been the sound of his own heartbeat. Due to his state of insanity he could not tell that it was not
the sound of the old man’s heart.
Eric is clearly insane. There is no dispute that he committed a crime but the question here is the
nature of his mind at the time he committed the crime. It has been clearly demonstrated that he
was not sane. He kept hearing things that were not there. Evidence from his statement show an
individual who had no control of his acts. Eric plead not guilty by reason of insanity. He is not
morally responsible for his actions thus urge the jury to deliver a verdict of not guilty by reason
of insanity.
“How then am I mad”? 8
Gargano,James W; The Theme of Time in The Tell-Tale Heart (1967)
G.Arthur Martin, Closing Argument to the Jury for the Defense in Criminal cases (1967)
Kennedy, J. Gerald Poe; Death and the life of writing (1987)

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