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October 2, 2019


#RIPXIV: E.A. Poe Imp of the Perverse

by N@ncy

Author:  Edgar Allan Poe
Genre: short story in the horror genre
Title:  The Imp of  the Perverse
Published:  July 1845  in Graham’s Magazine
Length of story:  4 pages [16 paragraphs]
Published by  Penguin Books
Setting: 1830-1840’s in prison cell, narrator tells his story…how he got on death row
Theme:  an impulse forcing people to act irrationally




• The Imp of  the Perverse is a  short story that begins as an essay.
• It discusses the  narrator’s self-destructive impulses, embodied as  The Imp of  the Perverse.
• Poe wrote it to justify his own actions of self-torment and self-destruction.
• Many of Poe’s characters display a failure to resist The Imp of  the Perverse.
• Murder in The Black Cat
• Narrator in Tell Tale Heart
• The opposite  is displayed in the character  C. Auguste Dupin.
• He exhibits reason and deep analysis.


• Part 1 Is written in essay style mentioning subjects
• in philosophical terms (primum mobile, à posteriori) ), logic (phrenology) and mysticism (Kabbala)
• Poe cleverly reveals the ‘narrator’s own ‘imp’ by being so wordy!
• The narrator admits he has always wanted to anger the listener (reader) with confusing language.
• “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing….”
• “I am one of the many uncounted victims of the Imp of the Perverse.” (pg 281)
• Part 2 contains the narrators story….
• He inherits an estate after murdering its owner.
• He ends up on death row after a perverse impulse causes him to confess the murder.


• The Narrator: An apparently demented man who appears intelligent and well educated.
• The Listener:  Unnamed person listening to the narrator’s story.
• Madame Pilau: Woman who died after inhaling the smoke from an accidentally poisoned candle.
• The Murder Victim: Unnamed person whose property passed to the narrator.
• Pedestrians:  People who witness the narrator’s confession.


Style:  first person point-of-view with an unreliable narrator
• Had I not been thus prolix, you might either have
• misunderstood me altogether or […] fancied me mad. (pg 283)


Symbols:   Imp
• This is a spirit that tempts a person to do things….they would normally not do.
• Poe explains that the  ‘imp’  is an impulse in each person’s mind.


• Alliteration:  laconic and luminous language (pg 281)
• Climax: Poe uses a climax words that are arranged  to increase their importance.
• “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing, and the longing ( to the deep regret and mortification of the speaker and in defiance of all consequences) in indulged.” (pg 282)


Voice of Poe:
• Poe states we use the word ‘perverse’ without really knowing what is means.
• Perverse = headstrong, obstinate, contradictory
• Poe is a master when it comes to entering human thoughts.
• He describes how we ‘put off until tomorrow that we could do today’ because we are perverse.
• With each passing day the anxiety grows.
• I do exactly what Poe describes…
• when I have to make an appointment for the dentist!
• “The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare.” (pg 282)


Voice of Poe:
• In  paragraph 6  we read one of the famous lines:
• “ We stand upon the brink of a precipice.”
• Poe describes the uncontrollable urge to jump.
• I could only think of the Austrian, Felix Baumgartner.
• In 2012 he stood who on the ‘precipice’ of space before making his famous skydive from the stratosphere!
• Goosebumps!


• This is one of Poe’s  lesser known works.
• I expected great writing and got loopy sentences going on and on about nothing!
• After further reading I realized this was Poe’s intention….to irritate the reader!
• The story just kept getting better and better.
Weak point:  the first 4 paragraphs are difficult to get through.
• This almost deterred and discouraged me…but I did not stop!
Strong point: the story in itself is ‘perverse’ .
• Poe deliberately  uses confusing writing and structure to irritate the reader.
• A writer usually wants to please the reader!
• Poe preforms this “perverse” act that defies logic and reason.


Last thoughts:
• I thought I would just breeze through 4 pages of The Imp of the Perverse.
• How wrong I was.
• I have read each and every word in this story…twice!!
• That is an accomplishment in itself.
• Below is a summation of each paragraph.
• Read it ….or read the story first ……your choice.
• I was surprised by the style, structure and  plot.
• Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe are works of art….
• …and deserve a high score.

Read more from Classic, horror, short story
3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reese Warner
    Oct 3 2019

    This makes me want to read it! I’ve heard the expression ‘the imp of the perverse,’ but I never knew it came from Poe.



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