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Allusion in The Pit and the Pendulum

Allusions to Greek Mythology and the Bible: Throughout the story, Poe employs various biblical and mythological allusions to draw readers into the terror of the pit. Using Greco-Roman references, Poe likens the pit to “Ultima Thule.” His references equates the pit to a form of punishment beyond the known world, and furthers the imagery of the pit as a type of hell—or Hades, a reference to the underworld in Greek mythology. Through biblical allusions, Poe associates the narrator’s difficulties to the trial and tribulations the biblical Job suffers; they both endure plight after plight, constantly in search of salvation.

Allusion Examples in The Pit and the Pendulum:

The Pit and the Pendulum

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"King of Terrors..."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

In an allusion the biblical book of Job 18:14, the narrator describes death as the “King of Terrors.” Like Job, who endures undeserved physical and mental torment, the narrator suffers plight after plight in order to evade death and survive the Spanish Inquisition.

"Ultima Thule..."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

In ancient Greek and Roman cartography and literature, the phrase “Ultima Thule” referred to a northernmost location. This was an imaginative extension of “Thule,” a mysterious island north of England. Later, in medieval literature, the phrase came to mean a distant location beyond the known world. The pit, according to the narrator, is a form of punishment beyond the known world; he even explicitly outlines the way in which the pit is a symbol for hell: “the pit, typical of hell.”

"Hades..."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

In Greek mythology, "Hades" was both the name of the god of the underworld and hell, the final resting place for evil souls. As darkness overcomes the narrator, all of his senses vanish, a sensation which he likens to how souls descend and become engulfed into the underworld.

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