The abyss image and the concept of perverseness in selected works of Edgar Allan Poe



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The abyss image appears throughout the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The image takes various forms, for instance, a whirlwind, a maelstrom, a mirror, a black tarn, or an eye of one of the characters. At first Poe's use of the image in several of his parodies and humorous tales - "Metzengerstein," "The Duc De L'Omelette," and "A Tale of Jerusalem" - has no consistent meaning. However, about mid-point in his writing career, Poe began consistently to associate the image with a demonic force which he calls Perverseness. In a series of three tales - "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Black Cat," and "The Imp of the Perverse"-- Poe evolves an explanation for his concept of Perverseness and does so by associating it with the extended metaphor of the abyss. Poe's narrator explains that while he is high upon a precipice a Perverse impulse urges him to leap into the abyss. As soon as the narrator attempts through reason to check this impulse or passion for selfdestruction, he does exactly what he does not want to do. The struggle, as Poe defines it, is between reason and passion (impulse for selfdestruction) with reason always falling impotent to passion. [...]