This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
the Pendulum”, there is a quote. The end of the quote, “Mors ubi dira fuit vita salusque paten,” says, “where grim death has been, life and health appear.” Edgar Allen Poe suggests that maybe there is more to life after death. Poe is a writer that used stories to represent ideas and values he had about life. Poe does an amazing job by telling a horror story, while incorporating a message he is trying to make. The allegoric meaning of the story is about death and peoples worst types of nightmares. Poe says that perhaps life is all just a dream and solid reality could just be dreams of hope and projection. In the beginning of “The Pit and the Pendulum”, it opens up, “I was sick-sick unto death with the long agony…” (Poe 62). Immediately the reader is thrown into the feeling and sense of death. Poe uses a direct and captivating opening sentence to get the readers attention immediately. While Poe uses death as a main theme, there is also a theme that involves the whimsical way the story is told, like the whole story is a dream or nightmare. Poe refers to dreams in many different parts of the story, like when the narrator is telling how he got into the dungeon in the first place saying, “the sound of the inquisitorial voices seemed merged in one dreamy indeterminate hum.”(Poe 62) Referring to the dreams, it makes it difficult for the reader to know whether what is happening is reality or nightmare, which is what Poe was trying to accomplish. Poe wanted the readers to feel that the principles society has could just be a way of giving people something to have hope in. In another paragraph, the Poe writes: Arousing from the most profound of slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some dream. Yet in a second afterward, (so frail may that web have been) we remember not that we have dreamed. In the return to life
Cross 2 from the swoon there are two stages; first that of the sense of mental or spiritual; secondly, that of the sense of physical, existence. It seems probable that if, upon reaching the second stage, we could recall the impressions of the first, we should find these impressions eloquent in memories of the gulf beyond. (63) I got the sense that the narrator is suggesting that we should remember our dreams, but we don’t. I think Poe is puzzled by this and suggests that we are somehow always in a dream. The entire story is so whimsical, like this paragraph suggests, I feel like Poe is trying to say that life is one big dream and that perhaps we cannot look upon our life right not because we cannot recall the first “stage”. In the paragraph, Poe talks about the two stages of life. I think this is when Poe is really trying to make his point. I think giving these two stages is a way of Poe expressing his point to the readers. I think Poe feels like maybe there is more to life than simply the here and now when he says, “the gulf beyond”(Poe 63). I think Poe doesn’t want to come out and just say this so he disguises it in this story and gives the idea to the narrator himself. I think Poe believes that there is a more dreamlike feel to life than true reality. Throughout the story, the narrator repeatedly falls asleep. By doing this, Poe writes about the narrator being thrown into absolute darkness, which makes it hard for the reader to know whether the story is really happening or if it is only a nightmare. One of the interesting times was when the narrator awoke for the first time in the prison. The narrator says, “I longed, yet dared not to employ my vision. I dreaded the first glance at objects around me. It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I grew aghast lest there should be nothing to see.”(Poe 64) To me, Poe was trying to make a point that the narrator was more frightened to open his eyes and see the real world. The narrator would rather dream and not know what was really happening to him. The narrator shows no sense of reason as to why there would be anything there and, to me,
Cross 3 this kind of makes it sound that Poe doubts that reason will save the world. If the narrator cannot reason that there is life outside of his closed eyes, how can he reason that there is real life at all? When the narrator investigates the dungeon, he miscounts his steps and how big the room actually was. Poe could have done this to show that the narrator’s perception doesn’t match reality. This goes back to enhancing the fact that the reader doesn’t even know whether this story is reality or a dream. The narrator projected that the room was much bigger with lots of masonry. In reality, it was about half the size he had thought with iron surrounding the room. Poe was trying to conjure the idea that life is made out to be bigger and more important than what it actually is: one big dream. One of the biggest themes of the story is the historical context to the Spanish Inquisition during the sixteenth century, when the Roman Catholic Church, persecuted heretics and members of religion with torture and execution. Poe incorporates this historical event so that the reader could potentially take away the feeling that he is recalling the Inquisition. I believe Poe did this to, once again, show that if this man had been convicted of a crime during the Spanish Inquisition, he should be killed. The narrator is not though. He has hope throughout the story and, Poe believes that the hope the narrator has is just a dream he has of being someone great and fighting and surviving the Inquisition. In the end of the story, Poe seems to emphasize even more that the story is a dream. When the narrator says: These colors had now assumed…a startling and most intense brilliancy, that gave to the spectral and fiendish portraitures…Demon eyes, of a wild and ghastly vivacity, glared upon me in a thousand directions, where none
Cross 4 had been visible before, and gleamed with the lurid luster of a fire that I could not force my imagination to regard as unreal(Poe 72). This exert from the story seems to just be completely fictional to imagine happening in real life. It is almost as if it is demonic and satanic. It seems completely unrealistic to readers and I believe Poe meant to do this. Poe wanted to create a rather out of body experience to make the reader feel as though this was a big dream and the narrator would soon snap out of it. When I first read this story in high school, I had guessed that the ending would reveal that he was in a dream, rather than him being rescued. The biggest claim one could make to prove that the story could be a dream is the fact that the story has a happy ending. Poe writes, “There was a harsh grating as of a thousand thunders! The fiery walls rushed back! An outstretched arm caught my own as I fell, fainting, into the abyss.”(Poe 73) The whole idea that the French Army came to rescue the narrator in the exact place at the exact moment was a very far fetched idea. The idea of this story having a happy ending is so far fetched that it was completely dreamlike. I believe that Poe used this ending in a way of giving hope to the readers, which Poe believed is what peoples lives were built off of. I found it rather odd that Poe drags out the whole book, only to sum up the most interesting part of the story, the ending, into only four sentences. Another aspect of the story that could be taken to be a nightmarish theme is the way the narrator could be killed. The narrator could have been sliced or pushed into the pit. I thought these were reminiscent of types of dreams people could typically have. A lot of people have fears of falling or being killed and having no way to prevent this. The narrator was so overcome by fear at the thought of falling into the pit he says, “Death, any death but that of the pit!”(Poe 73) Many times people dream of falling. I looked up
Cross 5 what dream analysis of dreams that involve people falling and it described that it could mean you feel out of control or power in some aspect of life. Maybe Poe believed that this falling into the pit kind of represented how the narrator had no control on what the Inquisition was doing at the time. The narrator could have felt overwhelmed and was simply dreaming of this situation. In class, we talked about the pendulum representing time. I think it could represent time in the fact that the pendulum reminds me of a grandfather clock because it also has a pendulum. The narrator seems comfortable with the thought of dying to the pendulum because he would think of other things and didn’t get as fearful as he was about to die from the pit. When the walls were caving in and the narrator seemed to have no hope, the narrator says, “I neither hoped nor desired it to stop.”(Poe 73) Poe seems to suggest that the narrator isn’t really concerned with dying but more concerned with the realization that the narrator will die no matter what. He had no real hope at that point to even try to stop the inevitable. “The Pit and the Pendulum” is a story of tortures and the opposition to the Inquisition. Poe used many different and vivid details to make readers actually feel like this could only be a terrible dream. I believe that Poe wanted readers to get the sense that this was a dream to this narrator. The happy ending of this story is so unlike Poe that I believe he was trying to prove a point. I think Poe was trying to get his readers to feel that maybe there is something more than just life here on earth. I don’t know if Poe was a religious man, but I do believe that he thought there was something bigger and more realistic then this dreamlike life humans project. I think the way the story is written and how the reader doesn’t know if the story was actually a dream was Poe’s hidden way of
Cross 6 trying to relay his message. I think Poe says that perhaps life is all just a dream and solid reality could just be dreams of hope and projection.
Works Cited Poe, Edgar Allen. The Gold-Bug and Other Tales. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1991.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.