Essay on The Perverse in the Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe

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Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps the best-known American Romantic who worked in the Gothic mode. His stories explore the darker side of the Romantic imagination, dealing with the grotesque, the supernatural, and the horrifying. He defined the form of the American short story. As one might expect, Poe himself eschewed conventional morality, which he believed stems from man's attempts to dictate the purposes of God. Poe saw God more as process than purpose. He believed that moralists derive their beliefs, and thus, the resultant behavioral patterns, from a priori knowledge. In Eureka, we find that Poe shunned such artifices of mind, systems which, he professed, have no basis in reality. Yet Poe employed in his writing the diction of the moral…show more content…
By this time, Toby utters scarcely a sentence without oaths, his favorite of which is to bet the devil his head that he can accomplish whatever challenge lies before him. One day as the narrator accompanies Toby Dammit on a route which requires the crossing of a covered bridge, Toby bets the devil his head that he can leap over a bridge stile, pigeon winging as he performs the feat. Unexpectedly a "little lame old gentleman of venerable aspect" (Poe 491) interrupts with an emphatic "ahem" to take Toby up on his bet. The elderly gentleman wears a "a full suit of black, but his shirt was perfectly clean and the collar turned very neatly down over a white cravat." Oddly, his eyes are "carefully rolled up into the top of his head," and he wears a black silk apron. (491) After he takes charge of Toby, allowing him a running start, the elderly interloper takes his position just behind the stile. The narrator awaits the gentleman's "One--two--three--and--away," when Toby initiates his running leap. To all appearances, the young reprobate is destined to clear the stile easily, pigeon-winging as he flies, when abruptly his progress is arrested, and the luckless Toby falls flat on his back on his
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