Analysis Pages

Themes in The Pit and the Pendulum

Themes Examples in The Pit and the Pendulum:

The Pit and the Pendulum

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"In its size I had been greatly mistaken. ..."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

The narrator, in his confused and dilapidated state, had incorrectly measured the space of his dungeon. After he fell the first time, he recounted the same circumference twice. As the narrator becomes more and more oriented with the space and with himself, he begins to see all the ways in which he mistook his surroundings. He now understands that the black-robed judges and the white candles he envisioned were just figments of his imagination.

"So far, I had not opened my eyes. ..."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

Up until this point in the story, the narrator has used auditory and tactile imagery to describe what he has witnessed in the pit—the strange sounds he overhears and the feeling of the sable drapes or the darkness that overcomes him. Sporadically, he has peppered the text with visual imagery to describe the the whiteness of the judge’s lips or the blackness of the pit. However, as the narrator readily admits, “so far, I had not opened my eyes.” The visual imagery, the narrator concedes, has been entirely fabricated in his mind, further eroding his credibility as a reliable, sane narrator.

"silence down—down—still down—..."   (The Pit and the Pendulum)

The narrator constantly uses repetitive language to highlight his diminishing grip on reality. For example, in the first paragraph, the narrator phrases the opening line as “I was sick—sick” and explains that the lips of the black-robed judges are “white—whiter than the sheets upon which I trace these words.” In this passage, the narrator employs the same repetitive language, stating that the tall figures “bore me in silence down—down—still down,” an image which eerily resembles the process of entombment. Here, the narrator employs the literary tool anadiplosis, whereby the narrator repeats the last word from the previous clause to begin the next. Such a tool functions to exacerbate the narrator’s condition because it often adds a sense of greater despair.

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