Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Many scholars and critics make the mistake of closely linking Poe with his narrators, some going so far as to say that Poe's tales are autobiographical, at least in part. While it may be said that certain of Poe's writings seem to reflect particular aspects of his life, a purely autobiographical reading falls short of any real understanding of Poe's stories. Examining five of Poe's writings-The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, "The Tell Tale Heart," "The Black Cat," "The Imp of the Perverse," and "The Cask of Amontillado"-in the order in which they were written reveals a pattern of thought developed through the selected tales as if they are a series. This pattern reveals that Poe is not connected to his narrators but is instead an observer; learning from their actions and recording for his readers what knowledge he is able to glean pertaining to the issue of perversity. Before delving into this reading, an examination of several critical viewpoints is offered. Each is broken down and individual strengths and weaknesses of each reading are offered as they relate to the reading being put forth. Upon completion of the review of literature, each of the five tales is closely examined, and the distinction between Poe and the narrator made clear. Additionally, the progression of thought through the tales in the series is demonstrated and it is shown how Poe seeks answers to certain questions, how those questions are answered by each of the tales, and what Poe does with these answers. In the first two, perversity is seen ,but undefined. In the third, it is defined but never fully explained or understood. In the fourth, it is explained in detail but never controlled. In the fifth it is knowingly used by the final narrator-guinea pig-in Poe's series of experiments.