Edgar Allan Poe's Use Of Descriptive Language In The Pit And The Pendulum

2170 words - 9 pages

Edgar Allan Poe's Use of Descriptive Language in The Pit and the Pendulum

Edgar Allan Poe has been known for writing stories of mystery and horror. He has
composed poems dealing with the occult. He favors those themes and ideas that people
shy away from, death, pain, suffering, torture, terror, and fear. His gothic stories burn
fright into the hearts of the reader or leave them with a sense of remorse for Poe's poor
and unfortunate characters. Not many people have ever thought about how Poe goes
about conveying these feelings to his readers and why it is so effective. Poe uses an
abundance of descriptive language in order to convey the feelings of his choice onto his
reader. This can be seen quite blatantly in "The Pit and the Pendulum"
"The Pit and the Pendulum" tells the story of a man victimized by the Spanish
Inquisition. He is thrown in a dungeon for the crime of treason. There is no light in the
dungeon so as to keep the narrator very confused. In the center of the dungeon he
accidentally finds a circular pit which he was undoubtedly meant to fall into. The narrator
then falls asleep and when he awakes he finds a pitcher of water lying beside him. It is
drugged and causes him to fall into a very deep sleep. When he awakes, he finds himself
in the dungeon still, but now it is lighted and he is strapped down with only his head and
left arm free so he could feed himself from a bowl of meat. Above him, a razor sharp
pendulum is swinging back and forth and lowering with each pass. To escape death, the
narrator, at the last minute, covers his wrappings in what meat is left. As the rats in the
dungeon eat the meat they also chew through the narrator's bindings, freeing him. Once
his captors realize his escape, the pendulum and table to which he was tied are raised
through the ceiling. The wall of the dungeon then become red-hot and begin to flatten in
order to drive the narrator into the pit. Just as the walls were about to push him into the
pit, he is rescued by the French General LaSalle.
Throughout the story, Poe creates feelings of confusion, fear, terror, and suspense
through his use of descriptive language. Author Paul Patterson says, "Descending into the
story of "The Pit and the Pendulum", we are faced with emotions of claustrophobia,
victimization, restriction, paranoia, and a overall sense of hopelessness ending in surprising
liberation." (http://www.watershed.winnipeg.mb.ca/popitnpendulum.html, 1-2) All of
these things occur throughout the story but can seen at the end of the story as the walls of
the prison are closing in on the narrator.
" 'Death,' I said, 'any death but that of the pit!'...At length for my seared and
writhing body there was no longer an inch of foothold on the firm floor of the
prison. I struggled no more, but the agony of my soul found vent in one loud,
long, and final scream of despair. I felt that I tottered upon the brink- I averted my

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