Literary Analysis Essay on No Willing Injustice: Edgar Allan Poe & Andre Dubus

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  986 Words
Date:  2023-01-24


A premise by Socrates in his apology stated that no one commits evil or an injustice willingly. While this is an argument that can be debated, a significant part of it is. He cites the self-interest of people as the primary cause of their tendency to do evil, and hence the major barrier that clogs their knowledge of a crime as they commit it. This is an argument that has found its most consistent application in the two readings, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe and Killings by Andre Dubus. These are literary pieces that present different aspects of crime within various settings, under different circumstances, yet they are crimes all the same. Crime is a diverse phenomenon that takes different forms, motives, means, and outcomes, and therefore, analyzing these two readings brings out these differences alongside the justifications of the crimes.

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Going by Socrates premise, self-interest in the Killings by Dubus is revenge. Frank, a twenty-one-year-old is killed by his girlfriend's husband, Richard Strout who goes to jail briefly and is bailed out by his father. Matt is Frank's father who has suffered emotionally due to the loss of his son, and even more so because Strout was able to get away with murder and return to his normal life as a bartender. The presence of Strout on the streets, and in the bar is too traumatizing for Matt, as well as for Ruth, Frank's mother, who have to see him walk freely yet he had caused them immense pain. Revenge is hence seen as the ultimate course of action, and as the closure that will eliminate the ever-present evidence of the murder of the son. "Ruth would shoot him herself if she thought she could hit him" (Dubus 970). Therefore, Matt takes the responsibility to end this continuous thread of heartache and stalks Strout as he walks away for the bar, and later kill him. Revenge is the self-interest, and the one tool that Matt and Ruth feel would bring closure to the hurtful loss of their son.

Allan Poe, on the other hand, presents his unnamed narrator as an individual who is facing some form of illness that is impairing his judgment. The narrator insists of being of sound mind, judging from his ability to plan the murder of the Old Man. He also seeks revenge, not to the Old Man, but to his "eye of the vulture" that threatened him every time the Old Man looked at him (Poe 64). The narrator does not justify the evilness depicted by the eye and hence acts on his sense of insecurity and intuition. There is a pattern that emanates from these two stories, that involves the stalking of the victim, although, in the tell-tale heart, the narrator seems to be obsessed with the victim.

The themes of morality, justice, and friendship emerge in these stories, more so in the Killings. Morality has been defined by various philosophers differently, and this discussion will define it as the rightness or wrongness of an act, compounded by the intention to cause either good or bad. Matt is no doubt hurt by the death of his son. He hence plans to harm Strout by arming up with a .38, stalks him, forces him to drive and then kills him and disposed of his body in the woods. Taking a life is immoral, to begin with, and his intention of killing Strout compounds this. The narrator in Poe's work, on the other hand, does not intend to kill the Old Man. He even confesses of the love he has for him (Poe 64). However, it is the evil eye that he targets, and he hence kills him to kill the eye. He commits an immoral act, but his intentions, as well as hi consent (due to his controversial mental status), exempt him. There is no justice in either way. Revenge can never be a part of justice, but rather a series of actions that accumulative result in more forms of injustice. Friendship and crime seem to tag along in these two cases. Matt drags Willis in his plans to kill Strout, and because they are friends, Willis has to abide by the plans. The narrator, on the other hand, considers the Old Man a friend, and still goes on to kill him.

The narrator in Poe's the tell-tale heart committed manslaughter while Matt committed murder. The narrator's efforts to explain and prove his sanity and his mental breakdown towards the end of the story prove his mental instability. He hears things that the normal ear cannot hear, such as the pounding of the heart before and after killing the Old Man and also isolates the eye from the man as if they are two separate entities. Killing without the intention of consent justifies the action as manslaughter rather than murder. Matt on the hand plans on killing Strout rehearses the entire process, digs a ditch before kidnapping Strout, stalks him, and deceives him of a plan to have him leave town to limit resistance. He is of sound mind while planning all these, and he hence intends to cause harm. He consequently is a murderer.


The two stories are killing, and the tell-tale heart is two sides of a crime world, one filled vengeance and hurting and the other filled with illusions and malice. Crime dominates both accounts, but the intention and the ability to consent on the actions committed separates them. Matt knowingly kills Strout, while the narrator kills the Old Man while aiming at his evil eye. There are similarities in the planning of the murders with both perpetrators stalking their victims, pretending to be friendly and killing them, but the thin line drawn between murder and manslaughter is the ability of the suspect to know the actions and still pursue them.

Works Cited

Dubus. A. Killings. 1979. Pp. 969-982

Poe E. A. Tell-Tale Heart. 1843. The pioneer. Pp. 64-67

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Literary Analysis Essay on No Willing Injustice: Edgar Allan Poe & Andre Dubus. (2023, Jan 24). Retrieved from

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