Analysis Pages

Quotes in The Pit and the Pendulum

Quotes Examples in The Pit and the Pendulum:

The Pit and the Pendulum

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"Free!—and in the grasp of the Inquisition!..."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

This exclamation—”Free!”—followed by a dash and phrase pivots the narrator back into reality, and this phrase—”I had but escaped death...to be delivered unto worse death”—creates a sense of claustrophobia. At this point, the narrator has been freed, but he is still trapped within the pit, as illustrated by the structure of this sentence.

"Down—steadily down it crept...."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

Throughout the next three paragraphs, the narrator becomes intoxicated with terror, as revealed through the use of the literary technique anaphora, the repetition of the first word or phrase in successive phrases. Here, the narrator vividly describes as the pendulum’s plunging downward by beginning each of these three paragraphs with the word “down.” In the first paragraph, the pendulum creeps; in the second, it descends “certainly, relentlessly”; finally, it descends “still unceasingly—still inevitably.” The closer the pendulum gets, the more frantic and urgent the diction becomes, the more vivid and terrifying the imagery transforms.

"And then I fell suddenly calm, and lay smiling at the glittering death, as a child at some rare bauble...."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

This simile intimates the narrator’s thought process: at first petrified of his impending death, he now accepts it like a child admiring a “bauble,” or a trinket. The pendulum, which moments ago resembled a menacing, ominous “scimitar,” now transforms before the narrator’s eyes into a harmless knickknack.

"no! In delirium—no! In a swoon—no! In death—no!..."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

With erratic punctuation in the form of exclamation points and em dashes, the narrator breaks the narrative flow. As the narrator describes how he wades in and out of sleep, he is suddenly jolted awake with this exclamation. The contradictory language, highlighted with the repetition of “no!”, suggests that the narrator cannot maintain a steady stream of consciousness and is on the brink of insanity.

"I WAS SICK—sick unto death with that long agony..."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

“The Pit and the Pendulum” is told from a first-person point of view. In effect, the reader experiences the horror the protagonist endures from a firsthand perspective, allowing the reader to witness the torture on a much more intimate level. This opening line also sheds light on the narrator’s mental and physical state. Throughout the story, neither the narrator nor the reader ever find out what crime he committed, or if he is even aware of what crime he is being punished for. Poe creates a narrator who is teetering on the brink of insanity. As the story opens, we encounter a narrator who is sick “unto death,” meaning that he is both physically and mentally enfeebled. His mental and physical precariousness causes the reader to consider his reliability.

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