To Hell in Prose We Go with Edgar Allan Poe
I couldn’t resist. I had to post something to do with Edgar Allan Poe. After all, what’s Halloween without some chilling prose? You might agree that this is the perfect kind of story to set the tone for Halloween. Too scared to read on? Come on. I double devil dare you.
In The Imp of the Perverse, Poe creates a character who seeks freedom because he surrenders to the cruel impulses fueled by the devil. This leads the reader down an exhilarating path which leads the to the question, what the hell is an imp and does it really have the power to drive someone mad and to drive one to kill? Now, you might say that any person with a good head on their shoulders knows that murder is immoral and wouldn’t have the drive to kill. I’d say, “Why yes, you’re right” but Poe would say you’re wrong. He would argue that you wouldn’t be able to escape the imp’s compelling attraction. The imp is what drives us to feel because it drives the individual to abandon reason and to participate in doing cruel things. This causes you to embrace and indulge in sensations and raw emotions you thought you never had. Poe’s horrific, satanic, revolting, and blasphemous prose provoke us to feel the same as what we’re reading. The imp of the perverse is a divergence from morality because it evokes perverse, murderous fantasies and induces horrific feelings and thoughts into the reader’s mind. The narrator taunts and entices the reader to feel unsettling sensations just as the ‘imp of the perverse’ entices and excites the narrator to go on with the story.
After the chilling character commits murder, the ‘imp’ begins to tear away at his psyche. He convinces himself, “I am safe- I am Safe- yes- if I be not fool enough to make open confession!” Poe uses the recognizable “I am” found in the Bible and combines it with his character’s conflicting thoughts of wanting to confess to the murder suggesting that a man evil enough to commit murder is not a moral man. The imp of the perverse alters the sadistic mind because as Poe describes, “…that single thought is enough. 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,) is indulged.” The narrator describes the pinnacle moments of this mad act and the moments where he is satisfied in committing murder. This murderous act suggests his allegiance to the devil. Horror and disgust saturate the mind of the reader because Poe intends on not filling the reader’s mind with pretty things. He’s driven to displease the reader so that our senses are awakened by what we do not know. The fear of the unknown is what makes us feel perverse because we’re intrigued by what the narrator is describing and we want to know more.
Poe’s narrator explains that he is“…of the many uncounted victims of the imp of the perverse.” The narrator is suggesting that every human being has a demon living within them and has the resolve to think of or want to bestow evil acts upon another, but most aren’t willing or aren’t mad enough to proclaim to the world that they’re planning a murder or have succeeded in murdering someone. Poe doesn’t actually give away gruesome details of the murder, so the reader is forced to think of the dreadful details on their own. After the murderous act is committed the narrator explains that “The next morning he was discovered dead in his bed, and the coroner’s verdict was, death by the visitation of God.” Ironically it’s the absence of God that provokes the narrator to commit murder.
Poe’s story swallows you up to fit the sadistic mind of the murderer. The reader surrenders their morality and freedom to the perverse imp, narrator, and Poe. Death, sadism and darkness become us because it’s all we can think about and it’s pretty much all I’m thinking about at the moment. Yeah, it probably wasn’t the best idea to read this kind of stuff before bed or in the middle of a storm (like the one we’re having now). Thanks a lot Poe. Now you’ve got me worried about that imp. I’m only hoping I’ll sleep well tonight, hopeful that the perverse imp won’t get the best of…Muahaha!
…Uh oh! I think I spoke too soon.