To Hell and Back

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To Hell and Back
On the surface, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” relates the story of a man tortured by the Spanish Inquisition. The man, remains nameless throughout the story, is condemned to death for an unknown crime and loses consciousness. He awakens in complete darkness and is frightened that he has been locked in a tomb but shortly realizes that he is probably in a dungeon. After exploring the enclosement, the prisoner collapses and falls asleep. He wakes up to an offering of bread and water and resumes exploring the cave. The man then trips over a fragment of his robe and lands with his face dangling over a large pit. He falls asleep yet again, wakes up to more bread and water, which has been drugged, and falls asleep again. When he wakes up again, the narrator finds himself strapped to a wooden board with the image of father time and a pendulum attached. He also notices the rats that are coming out of the being allured toward the meat, which his captors left him. He lays the meat across the rope that binds him and the rats chew through it just as the pendulum inches toward his heart. Once released from the board, the walls of the prison become heated and being to collapse toward him until the only option he has is to jump into the pit. At the last second, a mysterious person latches onto him and prevents the fall. Literally, the narrator is merely a victim of the persecution against Catholics and Protestants. On the symbolic level however, “The Pit and the Pendulum” represents the story of a man who dies, loses his soul to hell, and finds himself recued at the end by God. Symbolically, the narrator undergoes death through the darkness of the tomb and the image of Time on the ceiling with the pendulum. Firstly, when the narrator awakens in the tomb he sees “the blackness of eternal night [of the tomb encompassing him as he struggles] for breath” (299). Darkness itself usually is a metaphor for death and as the prisoner is in complete...
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