The narrator denies having any feelings of hatred or resentment for the man who had, as stated, never wronged the narrator. It has been speculated that the old man is a father figure, the narrator's landlord, or that the narrator works for the old man as a servant, and that perhaps his "vulture-eye" represents some sort of veiled secret, or power.
The ambiguity and lack of details about the two main characters stand in stark contrast to the specific plot details leading up to the murder.
It has been speculated that the narrator is confessing to a prison warden, a judge, a reporter, a doctor or (anachronistically) a psychiatrist.
The story is driven not by the narrator's insistence upon their "innocence", but by their insistence on their sanity.
"The Tell-Tale Heart" was first published in January 1843 in the inaugural issue of The Pioneer: A Literary and Critical Magazine, a short-lived Boston magazine edited by James Russell Lowell and Robert Carter who were listed as the "proprietors" on the front cover. The exactness with which the narrator recounts murdering the old man, as if the stealthy way in which they executed the crime were evidence of their sanity, reveals their monomania and paranoia.
The magazine was published in Boston by Leland and Whiting and in Philadelphia by Drew and Scammell. The focus of the story is the perverse scheme to commit the perfect crime. The story opens with a conversation already in progress between the narrator and another person who is not identified in any way.
Ultimately, the narrator's feelings of guilt, or a mental disturbance, result in hearing a thumping sound, which the narrator interprets as the dead man's beating heart.
The story was first published in James Russell Lowell's The Pioneer in January 1843.
The narrator begins to feel uncomfortable and notices a ringing in their ears.
As the ringing grows louder, the narrator comes to the conclusion that it is the heartbeat of the old man coming from under the floorboards.