What is the “Imp” in “The Imp of Perverse”?

By Kaitlin Wright

Should people still be tried for their self-destructive tendencies when it might just be a symptom of an illness that is merely a “peer into the abyss”? For those who haven’t read this short story by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Imp of Perverse” is an emphasis on intrusive thoughts and how destructive the lack of self-control that comes with those thoughts can be. Although there’s a spectrum on what exactly is considered “intrusive”, what mostly follows as a definition is a dark thought that appears in mind out of nowhere, but possibly due to dark subconscious desire, repression, or deep fears and anxieties that aren’t intentionally brought to light. Although thoughts ranging from negativity and positivity are just part of human behavior, to an extent, these thoughts shouldn’t be normalized. The narrator lengthy explains his theory on a symbolic entity in which is the “imp”.

the impThe narrator believes that this imp causes people to commit acts against their best interests, and how people are tried for something that is out of direct control. This being a struggling symptom of possible mental illness, it is the same as to people with Alzheimer’s who struggle to recall basic information on themselves. It’s something out of hand that lacks any sort of self-regulation and takes over. The imp has had “countless victims”, and the narrator believes he is one of the people the imp of the perverse has preyed on. He explains that he has been convicted of murder, and believes the imp was responsible for making him commit the crime that led to him being on death row. He is sentenced to death by hanging, and blames the invisible culprit, the “imp of the perverse”. This 1845 writing piece redirects the blame of mental illness on what it is: an illness.

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