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Furthermore, as in works like "The Cask of Amontillado," the moans of the victim heighten the terror of the story.
The old man's moans were "low stifled sounds that arose from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe." The narrator knew that the old man felt that he was in the room and, dramatically, when he opened his lantern to let a small ray of light out, it "fell full upon the vulture eye." When he saw that "hideous veiled eye," he became furious.
The question is, obviously, whose heart does he hear?
We all know that in moments of stress and fright our own heartbeat increases so rapidly that we feel every beat.
But he warns the reader not to mistake his "over-acuteness of the senses" for madness because he says that suddenly there came to his ears "a low, dull, quick sound": It was the beating of the old man's heart.
It is at this point in the story that we have our first ambiguity based upon the narrator's over-sensitivity and madness.
The sound increased; it was "a low, dull quick sound." We should note that the words used here to describe the beating of the heart are the exact words used only moments earlier to describe the murder of the old man. " Early commentators on the story saw this as merely another tale of terror or horror in which something supernatural was happening.
As the beating increased, the narrator "foamed [and] raved" adjectives commonly used to apply to a mad man. To the modern reader, it is less ambiguous; the beating of the heart occurs within the narrator himself.
He can stand the horror no longer because he knows that "they were making a mockery of my horror . Clearly, the narrator, who has just finished the gruesome act of dismembering a corpse, cannot cope with the highly emotional challenge needed when the police are searching the house.
These two factors cause his heart rate to accelerate to the point that his heartbeat is pounding in his ears so loudly that he cannot stand the psychological pressure any longer. The narrator's "tell-tale" heart causes him to convict himself.