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The Pit and the Pendulum

By Edgar Allen Poe

Becca Tylor

on 13 May 2013

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Transcript of The Pit and the Pendulum

Literary Devices Used Background Information First published in 1842 in the literary annual The Gift: A Christmas and New year’s Present for 1843, this short story depicts the experience of a man being tortured as a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition. The only characters in the story are the narrator, his tormentors, and Lasalle (a French general). Although Poe skews some historical facts, The Pit and the Pendulum still uses an unusual amount of sensory imagery to heighten the reader’s fear and anticipation. Allusion: A direct or indirect reference to something that is presumably commonly known. (The Inquisition, the French General).

Imagery: The sensory details or figurative language used to describe, arouse emotion, or represent abstractions. (“The sentence – the dread sentence of death – was the last of distinct accentuation which reached my ears.”) The Pit and the Pendulum Set during the time of the Inquisition, this story is told by an unnamed narrator who has been sentenced to death. After receiving his death sentence, the narrator faints. Upon awakening, he finds himself in complete darkness. Normally, the method by which the death sentence is carried out is by a public hanging, so the narrator is understandably confused. Fearful he has been locked in a tomb, the man gets up and walks around. He discovers that the pit is circular and that there is a deep hole in the middle in which lies a pool of water extremely far down. After stumbling around some more, he falls back into unconsciousness. When he awakes, the narrator finds some food and drink laid beside him. But upon drinking the drugged contents of the cup, he falls asleep again. This time, when he wakes up he is strapped to a wooden board. Looking up, he sees a large pendulum with a sharp circular blade on one end. The pendulum is slowly lowering toward his chest. Tearing his gaze from the frightening machine, the man notices the abundance of rats in the room. Pretending to be dead, the narrator lures the rats onto himself. The rodents then chew away at his bindings, setting the man free right before the pendulum is about to slice the top of his chest. Once the man is freed, the pendulum retracts into the top of the pit causing him to conclude that he is been watched by several spectators. But the man is not out of harms way. When the pendulum is completely retracted, the walls of the pit start heating up and closing in. All hope seems lost; the man is inches away from the walls and all that remains is the hole in the middle of the floor. Suddenly the walls cool down and began to expand. But the stress has overwhelmed the narrator and he begins to faint, falling into the hole. To his great surprise, a mysterious man catches his arm as he falls. It seems the French general, Lasalle, and his army have successfully taken over the prison in their attempt to end the Spanish Inquisition. By Edgar Allen Poe Situational Irony: Events turn out the opposite of what was expected. (Once the man is free from the pendulum, he is still not completely free. When the walls close in, he does not die as expected.)

Narrative: The telling of a story or an account of an event or series of events. (The entire short story is a narrative told by a prisoner being tortured by the Spanish Inquisition).
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