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date: 23 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This reader-centered essay examines four of Poe’s murder tales (“The Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Imp of the Perverse,” and “The Cask of Amontillado”) by focusing on the way Poe seduces readers into identifying with criminals. Using Poe’s concept of “perverseness”—the irresistible impulse to do what one should not—the essay examines the ways that Poe plays with perverseness as a means of manipulating reader response. The Imp impels confession in “Imp of the Perverse” but compels both murder and confession in “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” as perverseness becomes an authorial power. “The Cask of Amontillado” represents the culmination of Poe’s experiment with perverseness, as he manipulates reader responses through first, second, and third readings of the tale.

Keywords: The Cask of Amontillado, The Black Cat, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Imp of the Perverse, perverseness, unreliable narrators, murder, confession, detective tales, reader response

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