Drawing and caption

Another in a series about what you have to know to understand what’s going on in a cartoon. This time, the cartoon is by Paul Noth, in the May 11th New Yorker:


Exercise 1: Consider the drawing, without the caption. (It could be an item in the magazine’s caption contest.) You get nothing except the doctor-patient setting (admittedly, that involves recognizing that setting, which is quite culture-specific) unless you recognize that the patient is in fact Edgar Allan Poe:


Exercise 2: Consider the caption without the drawing. It’s baffling unless you can imagine a place where a heart would be beating under the floor. Ah, then you need to see an allusion to “The Tell-Tale Heart”. From Wikipedia:

“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe first published in 1843. It is told by an unnamed narrator who endeavors to convince the reader of his sanity, while describing a murder he committed. (The victim was an old man with a filmy “vulture-eye”, as the narrator calls it.) The murder is carefully calculated, and the murderer hides the body by dismembering it and hiding it under the floorboards. Ultimately the narrator’s guilt manifests itself in the form of the sound — possibly hallucinatory — of the old man’s heart still beating under the floorboards.

It all comes together in Edgar Allan Poe. And the absurdity of the heart beating under the floor in a doctor’s examining room.

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