Paranoid Schizophrenia is the psychological condition in which a loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought (as in hallucinations and delusions), and conduct characterized especially by persecutory or grandiose delusions or hallucinations or by delusional jealousy . Edgar Allen Poe was aware of this condition, as the narrator goes through all of the symptoms in "The Tell-Tale Heart." This is especially intriguing according to the fact that the mental state did not have a formal title until fifty years after his story. In the article "'Moral Insanity' or Paranoid Schizophrenia: Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart'" by Brett Zimmerman, Zimmerman addresses this fact. This article observes and comments on "The Tell-Tale Heart" from a psychological point of view.
Was Poe so intelligent that he, a writer and a poet, knew the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia before any of the medical doctors even knew it existed? Is it possible that it is just a coincidence that Poe described another one of his insane maniacs with the same characteristics as a schizophrenic? The characteristics of a paranoid schizophrenic is not scientifically described in the character of the narrator in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"
"According to current psychological theory, the 'active' phase of paranoid schizophrenia is preceded by a 'prodromal' phase during which premonitory symptoms occur…" (Zimmerman p.39). With this quote, the author tries to compare the actions of the narrator, "The Tell-Tale Heart," in the week before the murder to the actions of a schizophrenic. What Poe actually does in the beginning of the story is known in the literary sense as an 'introduction' and 'character development.' The narrator tries to convince the reader that he is not insane. "You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded-with caution-with what foresight-with what dissimulation I went to work!" (384). The actions might resemble that of a schizophrenic, but Poe is only using the narrator's insanity to build character.
A large section of the article was devoted to what the author believes is the most convincing evidence of schizophrenia, the auditory hallucinations. He states, "A major symptom of the active phase of schizophrenia involves hallucinations, and it is here that Poe critics have come closest to identifying the specific nature of the narrator's mental condition," (Zimmerman p.40). Zimmerman tries to compare this to the narrator's, "…now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton," (387). Zimmerman does not mention that when paranoid schizophrenics have auditory hallucinations, they, for the most part, hear voices, not abstract sounds. Also, any human being that has ever been involved in some type of activity that causes the pulse to raise, the head pulses and you can "hear" your own heart beating. Whenever the narrator gets excited he hears it, but deludes that it is, "It was the old man's heart," (387).
Another point Zimmerman tries to use, as a comparison to paranoid schizophrenia is the narrator's mood changes. The narrator starts off, "how calmly I can tell you the whole story," (384). However, as soon as he begins to tell of his sin he becomes excited and loses his composure, "The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!…Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me-the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come!" (387). Zimmerman tries to show how this change in the narrator's attitude makes him a paranoid schizophrenic. Again, Poe was only describing a typical madman, not his view of a schizophrenic. Secondly, any person telling a story will naturally get excited when the action in the story rises.
"Complications of schizophrenia include 'violent acts' (DSM 191), and, of course, the murder of the old man is clearly the ultimate manifestations of such a tendency," (Zimmerman 43). Zimmerman uses the act of the old man's murder as another comparative analysis to schizophrenia. Nonetheless, he mentions that most cases of paranoid schizophrenia