While recent scholarly efforts to link Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” to an exploration of judicial rhetoric and the insanity defense are to be applauded, these efforts have unfortunately misdiagnosed a key element of the insanity defense by treating it as an argument against a charge of insanity rather than an attempt to mitigate a charge of murder. In this article, I first seek to properly contextualize Poe’s adept understanding of the nature of the insanity defense within the legal elements of the defense in force during the writing of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I then utilize this understanding by exploring how this analysis gives us insight into the identity of the narrator’s audience (i.e., the identity of “you”) and the meanings that this identity may give the narrator’s haunting question, “but why will you say that I am mad?”


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pp. 129-143
Launched on MUSE
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