The modern view of psychopathic killers is much closer to the true medical definition than the mid-19th century concept of psychotic, or mad, behaviour when “The Tell-Tale Heart” was written; this is primarily due to the fact that we now identify psychotic actions as a psychological issue, as opposed to demonic or evil intent. Despite this, whether they are medically accurate or not, there are certain traits and natures that are tied to psychopaths in the modern conscience. “The Tell-Tale Heart”, despite its age, exhibits a few of these contemporary expectations but there are exceptions throughout. One of the major attributes of the modern concept of psychopathy is the inherent apathy, or at least lack of empathy, exhibited by the
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This demonstrates that he committed the crime for no emotional reason bar the fact he did not like the old man’s eye, which in itself is a farcical reason to commit murder. There is also the derision and contempt he holds for the constabulary when they find no evidence of his crime as well as the false persona he presents when they investigate his house. He understands the situation and does not let empathy cloud his actions when talking with the police; indicative of psychopathic behaviour. Finally there is the sadistic pleasure he finds in controlling the fate of the old man: “I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart”. Psychopaths often perform grave acts for the purposes of empowerment or demonstrating superiority over other people; this is clearly exhibited by the main character.
Another trait of the modern psychopath is the obsessive and methodical way in which they conduct themselves and their business, often willing to talk in express detail despite the morbidity of the act. Throughout the story the protagonist talks of his cautious and calculated actions, stating how he cannot be mentally disturbed because of how well he committed the murder: “If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs”. Although this is