The Metaphorical Pit of Hopelessness in The Pit and The Pendulum

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” we go into the mind of someone who is given the death penalty and is stuck in a dungeon. In the story, Poe creates suspense and a theme of death with the dark dungeon. The “Pit and the Pendulum” has many symbols that have different or hidden meanings e.g. the pit represents a man’s descent into hell, the pendulum and the scythe represent the passing or end of time. The pit is connected to a dream symbol because a pit in dreams reflects feelings about death, or feelings of being trapped, a pendulum suggests that you are experiencing some difficulties/confusion in making an important choice in your life, and a scythe is a symbol for the ending of physical existence. In dreams a pit symbolizes stagnancy, death, and sickness; and in the “Pit and the Pendulum” it represents hell and is regarded as the Ultima Thule of all the punishments.

The unknown nature of the pit and the fear of it makes the pit similar to hell and ties into the fear of death and unknown of what comes with death. When the narrator says “Neither could I forget what I had read of these pits—that the sudden extinction of life formed no part of their most horrible plan,” he is scared of the slow death that comes with falling into the pit. The pit didn’t kill you instantly but instead, it would slowly weaken you, cause a lot of pain and finally let you die. In dreams, a pit represents death and feelings of being trapped, which is what the narrator was experiencing. The narrator was trapped in the dungeon and facing death because he was given the death penalty. A pit represents feelings of being trapped and death because when a person is in a pit they can’t get out and slowly they will die. There is nothing one can do to escape a pit, so they are trapped their forever until their death. The Dream Dictionary website also says a bottomless pit symbolizes feelings of hopelessness about some situation or circumstance in your waking life.

The pit in the “Pit and the Pendulum” is a bottomless pit because the narrator couldn’t tell how deep it was and the narrator is experiencing hopelessness while in the dungeon. The narrator is hopeless because he thinks there is no way to escape the dungeon and the only option he has is death. A pit also symbolizes hopelessness because once one falls into a pit, there is nothing one can do about it, so there’s no hope to escape or survive. While the narrator is in the dungeon there is a pendulum descending down but the narrator notices that the bottom of the pendulum is formed by a razor-sharp crescent of steel; it represents the passing of time and death. A swinging pendulum represents the passing of time because pendulums are in grandfather clocks and a scythe represents the end or death because the Grim Reaper, the symbol of death, carries a scythe. The narrator is scared of the pendulum because he says “What mainly disturbed me was the idea that it had perceptibly descended.” At first, after seeing the pendulum, the narrator looks away, but when he looks back he realizes it is coming closer to him and it can kill him.


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