An analysis of the short story the pit and the pendulum by edgar allan poe

The pit and the pendulum setting

With all of "the keen, collected calmness of despair," he conceives of a plan. The narrator, while almost succumbing to disgust, is at last able to free himself — just as the pendulum is about to cut through his clothes. But again, the narrator shows his ingenuity and uses the rats to his advantage just in time. He finishes the circuit and, having counted his steps, he estimates the circumference of the cell to be about fifty yards, although he is unable to ascertain the shape of the prison. He decides to explore the cell by placing a scrap of his robe against the wall so that he can count the paces around the room, but he faints before he can measure the whole perimeter. As he is about to fall in, however, he hears voices and trumpets as the walls return suddenly to their normal shape. He now aims to find his way across the cell. The pendulum is both a weapon and a time-keeper. As the blade swings closer, he waits in a frenzied anguish for the blade to begin fraying his robes and vainly struggles to free his arm. Now he "can no longer doubt the doom prepared for [him] by monkish ingenuity in torture. An outside fire is heating his chamber, and the narrator rushes to the edge of the pit, weighing the cool water of the pit against the growing heat of the prison cell.

Increasingly terrified, he remains awake for a long time but eventually falls asleep and wakes to again find bread and water by his side. He eats the remainder of the rat-plundered food and for a brief moment feels hopeful. He then resumes his exploration of the prison, determining it to be roughly one hundred paces around.

In each of these narrow escapes, Poe pushes the narrator right to the last possible minute or inch, pushes him to the bring of death.

The pit and the pendulum theme

Even though he recognizes how dire the situation is, the narrator remains hopeful. At first, he swings between terror and confusion, but he then tries to remember the events of the past few days before opening his eyes. Perhaps it is because, while the French have saved the narrator from this death, they can't, of course, save him from eventual death. As soon as he does, the pendulum is retracted to the top of the ceiling, proving to the narrator the closeness with which he is watched. He wakes paranoid about being watched and sick with hunger, even knowing his impending death. Almost immediately, the dungeon becomes hotter, and he notices that the walls are not attached to the floor. It's not even clear whether this room is a cell, or that the pit has an end — it could well be bottomless.

Now he "can no longer doubt the doom prepared for [him] by monkish ingenuity in torture. At first, he prays for a swifter descent and, losing mental control, struggles to force himself closer to the blade, but then he suddenly calms down and smiles at the pendulum.

He then begins to traverse the vault, but he slips on the slimy floor and falls. The walls are hideously decorated with menacing figures. There is some very aromatic meat beside the board, but no water this time and he is unbearably thirsty.

the pit and the pendulum story

He remarks that he has overestimated its size, most likely having duplicated his steps during his explorations.

Sale's translation was a part of commentary and, in one of those notes, refers to an allegedly common form of torture and execution by "throwing [people] into a glowing pit of fire, whence he had the opprobrious appellation of the Lord of the Pit.

The pit and the pendulum pdf

The cell heats up further and begins to flatten into a narrowing diamond so that the narrator will eventually be forced into the pit. He leaves the edge in a fit of tears. He is in the hands of his captors, who are controlling his experience of the cell, and moreover control his mind by drugging him and generating strange effects of the mind so that as readers we are never sure what version of the truth we are getting. Upon receiving his death sentence, the narrator swoons, losing consciousness. He tries to measure the cell again, and finds that the perimeter measures one hundred steps. He notices the stone floors of the prison and panics suddenly that he has been put in a tomb. The rats then throng all over his body ravenously gnawing at the bandages. The walls are glowing with these figures and the whole room is full of that metallic light. As soon as he does, the pendulum is retracted to the top of the ceiling, proving to the narrator the closeness with which he is watched. A man enters, General Lassalle, who has come from the French army. Perhaps it is because, while the French have saved the narrator from this death, they can't, of course, save him from eventual death. He describes the implacable horror of the judges as they announce their decrees, although the narrator himself is too overwhelmed with fear to understand their words and falls into a faint while longing for death.

Upon receiving his death sentence, the narrator swoons, losing consciousness. Realizing that he is unbound and in a dark dungeon, he reasons that he must not have been at an auto-da-fe, the typical manner of execution for those who ran afoul of the Inquisition.

But on his way, he slips and falls into another strange slumber.

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The Pit and the Pendulum: Summary & Analysis