"The Imp of the Perverse" is evidently intended as a scientific explanation by Poe of the innate human tendency to do the wrong thing—to perform some action simply because we know it is improper, dangerous, or destructive. In Poe's description it sounds much like a manifestation of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive...
"The Imp of the Perverse" is evidently intended as a scientific explanation by Poe of the innate human tendency to do the wrong thing—to perform some action simply because we know it is improper, dangerous, or destructive. In Poe's description it sounds much like a manifestation of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The other two stories to which you refer, "The Black Cat" and "The Cask of Amontillado," show the horrifying results of this obsessive urge which Poe analyzes in technical-sounding language in "The Imp of the Perverse."
In "The Black Cat," the narrator abuses and then murders Pluto not because he hates him, but, as he tells us himself, precisely because the cat has loved him and done him no harm. He describes himself in tears as he is slipping the noose round the cat's neck, committing this cold-blooded act of sadism against his own will, as it were. In part, the narrator attributes his cruelty to substance abuse, admitting that he is an alcoholic and claiming that in his earlier life he was noted for the mildness of his disposition and his love for animals. It is not clear if Poe intends this to be taken at face value, or if he is deliberately presenting it as an "unreliable narrator" phenomenon. The man is under a compulsion to enact his "perversity" and not only to kill others—first the cat and then his wife (and in real life those who murder people often do start out by killing animals)—but to destroy himself.
In "The Cask of Amontillado," though the act of walling a man up and thus asphyxiating him in an underground chamber is clearly an act of madness, there at least seems to be a rationale for it: the "thousand injuries" he has sustained from Fortunato. But the final exchange between Montresor and his victim is significant:
"The Amontillado!" I said.
"He! he! he!—he! he! he!—yes, the Amontillado. But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the rest? Let us be gone."
"Yes," I said, "let us be gone."
"For the love of God, Montresor!"
"Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"
Montresor does not really want to kill Fortunato. In saying "let us be gone" it appears he means it, and agrees that it would be better to go back to the palazzo with his "friend" and rejoin the others. His strange echo of Fortunato's plea "for the love of God!" has always seemed sadly ironic to me. As in "The Black Cat," the "imp of the perverse" has compelled a man to do something he knows is monstrously wrong.