On the surface, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” relates the story of a man tortured by the Spanish Inquisition. The unknown narrator loses all consciousness when he finds out that he is to be sentenced to death. When he awakes to darkness confusion overwhelms him for he does not know what is to happen to him. After passing out several more times he starts searching his prison cell in the darkness and soon discovers that there is a deep circular pit filled with water in the center of the cave. He falls asleep once more before he opens his eyes and notices that the cave is now dimly lit and that he has been bound to a wooden board. He looks up to find that a swinging pendulum is now suspending from the ceiling as a mass of rats advance towards him in search of meat. After overcoming this pendulum as well as rats, enclosed walls of heat draw him to the edge of the pit. Just as his unconscious body descends towards the pit a mysterious figure comes to his rescue and snatches him from the depths of the hole. In this short story the narrator, who is sentenced to death, is miraculously saved from a near death experience by General Lasalle. On a symbolic level, “The Pit and the Pendulum” relates the story of a man who dies, almost loses his soul to hell, and finds himself rescued at the end by god.
The narrator never actually experiences death but goes through a few important incidences that symbolically show that he has died. When it is decided that this man is to be sentenced to death he describes that its as if “the tall candles [sank] into nothingness; their flames [going] out utterly; the blackness of darkness supervened; all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades”(297). The flames of the candle flickering off represent his conscious life slowly fading away until the last spark of his life is gone. Darkness taking over is usually a symbol of death showing that someone has died and that...
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