Alajlani, Zaher. “A Prediction of Ruin: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy as Plot Device in Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’” Journal of Romanian Literary Studies, vol. 20, no. 20/2020, Feb. 2020, pp. 677–682.


Abstract: The Poean protagonist is an impulsive, almost-neurotic individual who inhabits a universe of doom and horror. The impulsiveness one encounters in Poe’s stories, however, does not indicate a lack of purpose. Poe was very meticulous in constructing his fiction. His choice of diction, tone, and narrative and his conception of characters are all dedicated to creating a unified, unique effect on the reader. To move his stories forward and create a deliberate totality, he often employs the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy. This paper aims to explore this concept in Poe’s 1843 short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” and the way it functions as a plot device to achieve totality. I also attempt to propose a formula for the Poean protagonist’s self-fulfilling prophecy that can be applied to other short stories of Poe. The formula can be summarized as follows: subjective misinterpretation → ominous prediction → nagging obsession (planning) → wicked action (murder) → frantic confession (self-destruction).