At the story's onset the narrator is a concerned man who identifies the failings of the prevailing belief systems. The narrator argues that these systems completely disregard the darker impulses of human nature. The narrator characterizes these impulses as the work of "the imp of the perverse." Those who fall victim to the imp's temptations are not labeled as such because of the imp's unknown nature. The narrator uses his own experiences with the imp to further his argument. Years before, the narrator decided to commit murder. This murder was painstakingly thought out, planned, and executed. The narrator studied his victim to discover any habits and routines. After some time the narrator set his plan into motion and murdered his victim, leaving no evidence. The narrator then describes his years of happiness and contentment. As the years continue to pass, however, the narrator begins to be visited by unwanted, dark thoughts. These thoughts plague him constantly and cause him to worry about his safety long after committing his crime. The narrator is able to push these thoughts away for a time, but they persist and grow more forceful. At this point the narrator falls victim to both his own thoughts and the imp of the perverse. He tries to physically escape the imp's call, but he is unsuccessful. The imp grabs hold and forces the narrator to confess in broad daylight in front of many witnesses. The confession brings about his death.
The imp of the perverse
The imp of the perverse is introduced as an intense and powerful entity that can easily overpower humans. The imp preys on the darker and more negative tendencies in human nature. Some people fall victim to the imp more easily than others, but any person is a potential target. The imp finds an easy victim in the narrator. After the narrator plans and commits a murder and takes ownership of his victim's estate, the imp attacks. The imp plagues the narrator with dark, paranoid thoughts. The imp becomes more persistent after years of a mental assault. Ultimately the imp prevails and forces the narrator to publicly confess to the murder. The imp conquers another victim and leaves him to suffer the consequences alone.