The Pit and The Pendulum
Actions and Their Consequences in The Pit and The Pendulum
“When you make a choice, you also choose the consequence.” Everyday we make choices, but the outcome of those choices may be good or bad depending on the situations we are in. The Pit and The Pendulum tells a story about consequences to make the point that all actions have an out whether it be desired or not.
In The Pit and The Pendulum the narrator has to face a consequence. The narrator’s consequence was, “the dread sentence of death.” Although what he had done to deserve his punishment is unknown, he feels as though his punishment was too harsh. He is immediately taken to his sentencing he is seemingly fainted and is in a different place than originally. He is not given any time to actually think through his punishment or what had landed him into his present position. The narrator must face his consequences whether he wants to or not.
The actions the narrator has made has lead him to his consequences. He has been sent to the, “dungeon, as well as all the condemned cells in Toledo.” He is left in to the unknown as he is unbeknownst of what is yet to come. He explores the dungeon, but, “had fallen at the brink of a circular pit.” As he has unfortunately found he pit in the dungeon he does not know of all that has been planned against him involving his new discovery. Unfortunately, the narrator does not know the extent of his consequences of his actions.
The narrator’s actions have lead him to his unbeknownst predicament. As his time in the dungeon has increased, then the plans for his punishments have arrived, as he has been drugged through the water he had drank. He had been, “securely bound by a long strap resembling a surcingle,” so that he can not avoid his punishment. As he soon finds himself at the mercy of a swinging pendulum, then he is having to think of ways to avoid his untimely death. He seeks the help of hungry rats and sets them to work on chewing on the strap as his way out. Consequences of your actions can not always be avoided.
Although, the narrator was able to escape his consequences by who he thought was General Lasalle, it is not always avoidable. The narrator was only able to avoid his punishment for so long. The Pit and The Pendulum tells of the outcome of our actions. The narrator proved that all actions have consequences.
Characteristics Of Romanticism in The Pit and The Pendulum
The short story of “The Pit and the Pendulum”, written by Edgar Allan Poe, is a horror story about a man who is imprisoned during the Spanish Inquisition, and undergoes means of torture which he struggles to escape from but is rescued in the end by the French Army. This story is successful at stimulating fear in readers, and highlights themes of torture, emotions, death, terror, the will to live, fate, and sin of man (to which he is being punished for). These themes show a variety of characteristics of Romanticism as Poe uses his style, word usage, and subject matter to follow this literary style (while providing the readers with a suspenseful and dramatic effect). Thus, my analysis will cover some of these themes in relation to the devices Poe uses to illustrate them in the Romantic literary style.
The first part where Poe showcases Romanticism lies at the beginning of the story, with the focus on the senses and its dark mood. “I was sick, sick unto death, with that long agony, and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me” (143). With this opening statement, feelings of melancholy and hopelessness are settled upon the scene. Later in the paragraph, the prisoner describes the judges as he sees them: “I saw the lips of the black-robed judges. They appeared to me white, whiter than the sheet upon which I trace these words, and thin even to grotesqueness; thin with the intensity of their expression of firmness, of immovable resolution, of stern contempt of human torture” (143). In this quote, the prisoner tells of his fate as being in the hands of these unknown judges, and his condemnation being determined by them, who appear to be somewhat evil and demonic. His sentence to torture by these judges is seen as an example of the sinful nature of man with their lack of mercy towards others. Also, as the prisoner watches the candles melt away, he feels his hope does too. Poe has illustrated the characteristics of terror and evil with these examples.
Since Romanticism puts emphasis on emotions and powerful feelings, Poe uses first-person point of view in order to stimulate fear, give a frightening effect and to make the reader know exactly what the character is feeling. The character is physically imprisoned in the cell, but fear is the main emotion he felt. For example, as the character is thrown into the dungeon, he describes his thoughts and feelings stating that: “A fearful idea now suddenly drove the blood in torrents upon my heart, and for a brief period, I once more relapsed into insensibility. Upon recovering, I at once started to my feet, trembling convulsively in every fibre” (146). Through this description, Poe attempts to involve the reader into the character’s mind and senses so that they can feel the same horrors as him. In that way, by using a first person narrative, it exposes the readers to feelings of terror and suspense in a way that a third person narrative could not. The readers are able to view the frightening and horrific experience from the character’s perspective rather than a third person’s perspective. Also, using first person narrative in this story makes it more dramatic and suspenseful in a sense that the reader is limited to knowing the same amount about the character’s surroundings as he does, and thus not knowing what to expect next.
Poe also instills fear and horror through the setting in the story. The story takes place in an inescapable prison cell that includes a pit, a sharp pendulum, and unpleasant atmosphere. “The figures of fiends in aspects of menace, with skeleton forms, and other more really fearful images, overspread and disfigured the walls” (150). This description of the interior setting is meant to bring upon dark and gloomy pictures in a reader’s mind. In its boarder setting, Poe specifically chose a time period, which has an unpleasant reputation. The story occurred during the Spanish Inquisition, which would make the reader historically aware of the forms of punishments and tortures that were given out during that time; therefore, foreshadowing and providing the reader with the knowledge that the prisoner is about to receive some type of horrific punishment; hence, giving the reader feelings of suspense. The story does not reveal much information about the prisoner in terms of his name, what his crime was and whether he is guilty or not. It simply describes in detail the means by which the church officials try to torment and break the prisoner, and his own attempts to avoid and escape that excruciating mental and physical torment.
Another theme of Romanticism is about the nature of the world, and that theme is acknowledged in the story as dark, evil and mysterious. The sentence that is imposed upon the prisoner is very inhumane as it inflicted mental and physical pain on him. He is left to suffer by the disgusting nature of the prison, the form of death he received in being sliced open, and the psychological torture of the descent of the pendulum. All these types of torment and the vile living conditions he’s in just show the decaying nature of the world and the evil nature in human beings.
Poe also illustrates features of Romanticism through his effective use of metaphorical representations and symbolism in the story. The pit would be one of the main symbols that are portrayed in the story in where it could represent many things such as emptiness or death. The character described what he had sensed as he fell with his face resting on the floor. “At the same time my forehead seemed bathed in a clammy vapor, and the peculiar smell of decayed fungus arose to my nostrils… I had fallen at the very brink of a circular pit… I hearkened to its reverberations as it dashed against the sides of the chasm in its descent; at length there was a sullen plunge into water, succeeded by loud echoes” (148). With this description, it seems to symbolize ‘hell’ because this pit (in its own way) resembles hell with its deepness, hotness, disgusting and unknown horrors that lay down there. Also, towards the end of the story, the character is being forcefully pushed towards the pit, or in other words being pushed towards destruction, death, and horror.
Another symbol that’s provided in the story is one of the torture devices, which is the pendulum. This pendulum is a symbol of death and it represents time. The pendulum is sharp and it swings like the pendulum of a clock. As the pendulum is swinging closer and closer towards the prisoner, time is passing away and he gets one step closer to death. This device is also a form of psychological torture that the prisoner is sentenced to. The more the bladed pendulum gets closer to slicing him, the more tension, fear, and distress it causes the prisoner, which could possibly lead him to insanity. The rats are also symbols in this story. Though rats are commonly viewed as disgusting, filthy and vulgar creatures, the character used them to his advantage. He spread some of the food left on his bindings and allowed the rats to chew through them, therefore freeing him from bondage and escaping death. In that ways, these rats can represent “freedom” or “a second chance at life” from the torture device.
Furthermore, there appears to be a manifestation of hope throughout the story. While the prisoner is being tortured, he is able to maintain his capability of thinking fast and rationally regardless of his fear, distress and anxiety. He was also aware and able to describe his thoughts and feelings of hope when he said “As I put a portion of it within my lips, there rushed to my mind a half formed thought of joy — of hope. Yet what business had I with hope? It was, as I say, a half formed thought man has many such which are never completed” (152). This phrase puts emphasis on his nature on hope. We see a struggle between his weak hope and his growing despair. However, because of the little amount of hope that’s left in him, his mind is able to function and tries to work its way out of his torment, and therefore the feeling of hope prevents him from giving up and feeding his despair. Eventually, when he is rescued by the French army, his hope of freedom becomes real.
Overall, Poe portrays characteristics of Romanticism in his story through his point of view, symbolism, setting, and themes. The nature of the punishment that the character is subjected to (as in it tortures him both physically and mentally) reveals the dark, evil sided nature of the world, and the immorality of man. This gives a heavy sense of death and conveys a very dark and miserable mood, which provides the readers with a dramatic and thrilling sensation that Poe intended to give. The whole main idea of this is that the overall form of the story with its drama, suspense, and tragedy really illustrates qualities of Romantic literary style and context.
Comparison Of The Pit and the Pendulum And The Raven
Is it possible for a tale of a black bird and a tale of a death sentence to be at all similar? One can clearly find the answer to this question in Edgar Allen Poes The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven. In both stories the narrator goes through mental tortures that effect him greatly. Also each story creates dark, gothic images in an appropriate creepy setting that effect the narrator as well as the reader. These three characteristics that the two stories share are the use of psychological horror, gothic elements, and creepy setting.
The first characteristic that these two stories share is the use of psychological horror. An author will use psychological horror to show the reader what a character is going through. It can be defined as the torture or horrors of ones mind by someone or something. In The Pit and the Pendulum, Poe uses it a couple of times in the part where the man is on the wood table with the pendulum above. He is given a dish of seasoned meat without water, which he usually receives. Not having the pitcher of water is a big problem because the seasoned meat is spicy. This tortures the man because he is very hungry and if he were to eat the meat then he would become very thirsty. He basically has to decide if he wants to be hungry or thirsty. Another example of psychological horror in The Pit and the Pendulum is when the man notices the slowly descending pendulum above him. The pendulum falls so slow that it ends up torturing him into wishing he would be killed sooner. In The Raven, Poe uses psychological horror one main time. This is when the character starts to get angry at the raven. At first he just laughs at the bird but eventually he grows mad at the bird. His feeling toward it changed mainly because it wouldnt say anything besides Nevermore. These few examples show how psychological horror is a shared element in these two stories.
The second shared characteristic in these two stories is the use of Gothic elements. Gothic elements can either jump out at the reader or they can be hidden within a sentence. Most of the time these elements appear in the form of darkness, ghosts, torture or basic fears. In both The Raven and The Pit and Pendulum, Poe uses Gothic elements. In The Raven, Poe begins the poem with Once upon a midnight dreary, which definitely paints the picture of the story taking place in the middle of the night. This immediately gets the reader in a scared state. In The Pit and the Pendulum, Poe begins the story with I was sick-sick unto death. Once again, the reader knows immediately that this story will tell of some form of torment for the main character. Another example of Gothic elements in The Raven is when Poe writes
Prophet! said I, thing of evil–prophet still, if bird or devil! By referring to the bird as evil and a prophet, Poe is giving the bird supernatural powers. Supernatural powers, especially evil ones, are good characteristics of Gothic writing. The character being in a locked room or small space with no means of escape is repeated throughout The Pit and the Pendulum. Claustrophobia is a common Gothic characteristic in writing and can show many emotions including, fear, torture, starvation, and the feeling of entrapment.
The third characteristic is creepy setting. In both stories Poe sets surroundings in clear and distinct ways. The setting changes often in The Pit and the Pendulum from the time the sentence is given in the courtroom scene to the dark dungeon. The main character describes the dungeon with moist and slippery stone floors. While exploring the dungeon, he comes dangerously close to falling into the circular pit in the middle of the dungeon. The creepy setting in The Raven is the office in which the man is napping. The purple drapes on the windows and the bust of Pallas on top of the chamber door both appear in the study. Each setting in the stories creates a creepy mood for the readers.
The examples given above show that Edgar Allen Poes writings are very similar. Poe writes in such a unique way creating a frightening and gloomy mood for the readers. The three characteristics of psychological horror, gothic ideas, and creepy setting are three of many literary elements that Poe tends to use in his stories. By seeing these common elements in Poes stories, it is easy to understand how a tale of a black bird and a tale of a death sentence can be similar.
Religion Issues in The Pit and the Pendulum
Down in the Pit
“The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edger Allan Poe is a thrilling story about life in a dark pit or cell. This story shows that life isn’t always great and the only thing that can save man from hell is god. The setting, irony, and point of view help express the theme.
Down in the pit for only believing in his own faith. I was sick unto death with that long agony; and when they at unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me (168). Sick from the dirty and disgusting living quarters he could only think about death. He was now going insane from the torture and the thought of death. I felt that I lay upon my back, unbound (170). After sleeping a long time and not knowing why he was he could move freely, he began to wonder. With his eyes still shut he began to get up the courage to open his eyes, but to his worst thoughts nothing but blackness. All of this for living life the way he had wanted.
The cell has more to it than expected. My outstretched hands at length encountered some solid obstruction (170). After getting up enough courage, he got up a started to try and find a wall. Much to his relief one was found without injury. He just had to know how big it was. I tore a part of the hem from the robe and placed the fragment at full length, and at right angles to the wall (171). Hoping to make his way around the whole cellar and back to the part of his robe, he set off. With the ground being moist and slippery, each step had to be places every so carefully not to fall. This plan did not work and he fell and did not get up until he was done sleeping. The figure of the room still has not been figured out.
Light was finaly there. I saw to my horror the pitcher had been removed (172). After been drugged he awoke to see light and what the pit really looked like. It wasn’t anything like what he had thought it to be. Looking up at the ceiling there was a giant pendulum with razor like edges. It might have been half an hour, or perhaps even an hour (for I could take but imperfect not of time), before I cast my eyes upward (173). The pendulum begun to move closer and closer to him. Time could only tell how long it would take for it to get down to him. There was a loud blast of many trumpets (176). Right as he was about to fall into the pit a hand reached down and saved him from eternal death falling into the abyss. General Lasalle was the leader that saved him from the horrible ending of life. The Inquisition was finally in the hands of its enemies. Light became life and saved the death of the main character.
The first person point of view helped express the story though the eyes of the victim. The situational irony made you think that the main character was going to die in the middle of the story. The point of the story was to show that the only thing that can save man from hell is god. God did save him from hell and brought him back to live another day.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Display of Medieval Features as Depicted in His Narrative, The Pit and the Pendulum
The Pit and the Pendulum Response
There are many aspects of gothic elements and motifs seen throughout the story of The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe. One of these elements is Terror, which is seen during and prior to his actual imprisonment. Before he sentenced to his confinement, he portrays his state of mind of fear and terror as he fears what will happen to him and how it will happen. The reader is also drawn in to how his sanity is being lost as he cannot comprehend what is happening. In the scene with the pendulum, his terror is also shown by how he struggles to break free from the ropes as the pendulum slowly drops lower and lower.
Another gothic element that is portrayed throughout the story is Entrapment and Imprisonment. This is seen when the narrator comes to his senses and is stuck in a dark cell. He fully describes his confinement in the cell and how his sanity is slowly shattering. This provides the reader with insight on how people at the time were frightened by such a dark room filled with nothing but a pit. These aspects are also seen as he is trapped under the pendulum struggling to break free and using whatever he can to keep himself alive. His sanity again is slowly dropping as he is getting closer and closer to death.
The narrator also experiences the gothic element of Claustrophobia in his confined cell. The readers can infer that the narrator is experiencing this claustrophobia because he constantly pacing back and forth throughout the dungeon examining the length of the room. As he continues to pace back and forth, he starts to feel more and more trapped in the dark cell. His fear is at it’s peak when the burning hot walls slowly cave in on him creating for fear for both the narrator and the readers.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Use of Excitement as Demonstrated in His Narrative the Pit and the Pendulum
Pit and the Pendulum
The Pit and the Pendulum creates a theme of suspense. Throughout the story, Poe develops an everlasting suspense until the execution. The story builds on the human mind’s craving for information. It does this by giving the reader the perspective of the prisoner, who doesn’t have any useful knowledge. Furthermore, when the narrator begins to describe his sufferings, he doesn’t get finish his thoughts. A quote from the story:
“The agony of suspense grew at length intolerable, and I cautiously moved forward, with my arms extended,and my eyes straining from their sockets in the hope of catching some faint ray of light.”
This little snippet of the story shows that even the narrator feels the suspense of events to happen to him, and when.Toward the middle of the story, while strapped to a wooden board and a sharpened pendulum swings ever so slowly toward him, threatening to cut his heart out. This scene took way longer than expected if a pendulum intended to swing with enough force to kill him, and in the process caused the readers to create themselves a suspense of imminent death. Then with a heart pounding “ending” to our narrator, he comes up with an ingenious idea, saving himself in the nick of time.
Leaning to the end, the walls start to painstakingly converge toward the pit, all the while pushing our narrator along with it. The readers realize that even though the walls move at a crawl we all know that in the end he will get pushed into his death, we hope in suspense that he can come up with another idea just in time, forcing the reader to keep going in order to know what happens.
At the very end: “I felt that I tottered upon the brink–I averted my eyes”
The paragraph’s ending left us all in suspense of a cliff hanger and left us feeling an urge to find out what happened.Throughout the entirety of the story Poe manipulates every element to create a sense of suspense.