The Pit and the Pendulum vs. Dr. Heidegger's Experiment: Not Quite so Different

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The Pit and the Pendulum vs. Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment: Not Quite So Different Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” is about a man that is put through torture and Hawthorne’s “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is about a doctor who gives four elderly people a taste of water from the Fountain of Youth. “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” are definitely different as far as content goes but when examined a little more closely clear similarities can be found. Subtle literary devices and themes tie these two seemingly dissimilar stories and authors together. Both Poe and Hawthorne focused on the use of detailed descriptions of scenery to create a mood for their stories. In fact, in both stories almost half of what is written is a description of the setting. Poe uses the dungeon in “The Pit and the Pendulum” to create a sense of doom and despair that plays a part throughout his story. Near the beginning of the story he writes, “The blackness of eternal night encompassed me.” (2). This sets the mood right away. He also appeals to the reader’s senses and describes the feel and smells of the dungeon with phrases like”…my forehead seemed bathed in a clammy vapour, and the peculiar smell of decayed fungus arose to my nostrils.” (4). Poe further engages the reader’s senses later in the story, “A suffocating odor pervaded the prison!...A richer tint of crimson diffused itself over the pictured horrors of blood.” (9). By appealing to the senses Poe forces the reader to picture themselves in his story. Similarly Hawthorne describes the scene in “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” early in the story. There is a sense of aged wisdom and mysticism throughout the tale, especially when the four elderly drink the water from the fountain of youth for the experiment, and Hawthorne uses the setting to enhance the mood. “It was a dim, old-fashioned chamber, festooned with cobwebs, and besprinkled with antique dust,” (1) writes Hawthorne. The reader gets a sense of...
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