The Imp of the Perverse
The Imp of the Perverse is a metaphor for the urge to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation for the sole reason that it is possible for wrong to be done. The impulse is compared to an imp (a small demon) which leads an otherwise decent person into mischief.
- We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. ... It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow, and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle. ... [Then] The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer-note to the ghost that has so long overawed us. It flies—disappears—we are free. The old energy returns. We will labor now. Alas, it is too late!
The Imp of the Perverse is also exemplified in "The Bad Glazier", a prose poem by Charles Baudelaire.
- But here was a rare opportunity for stupidity even more flagrant and glorious.
- Now, Bob, who'd been observing Jack carefully for many years, had observed that when these moments arrived, Jack was almost invariably possessed by something that Bob had heard about in Church called the Imp of the Perverse. Bob was convinced that the Imp of the Perverse rode invisibly on Jack's shoulder whispering bad ideas into his ear, and that the only counterbalance was Bob himself, standing alongsides counseling good sense, prudence, caution, and other Puritan virtues.
- But Bob was in England.
- — from Quicksilver
- Poe, Edgar Allan (1845). "The Imp Of The Perverse - Edgar Allan Poe". kingkong.demon.co.uk. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992: 58. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7
- Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 113. ISBN 0-8160-4161-X
"The Imp of the Perverse" by Edgar Allan Poe