Versions of Reality
Life, Existence, and Consciousness
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AP English Language
AP English Literature
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The Pit and the Pendulum Theme of Fear
"The Pit and the Pendulum" is certainly a "scary story." It's meant to give us goose bumps, make us shiver, and generally feel like a scaredy cat. That said, even as it taps into our emotions, it forces us to wonder about why and what we fear. In the story, something as seemingly inconsequential and mundane as thirst strikes fear into the narrator. As we read, we can't help but think, "What would I do in this situation?" And the most frightening thing of all may be the answer to that question. So remember, when you're reading a story, it's not only about how the characters feel, it's about how we feel, too, as readers. In this case: totally and completely freaked out.
Questions About Fear
What is it that excites the most fear in our narrator? Conversely, is there anything that doesn't scare him? What aspects of human nature dare not given specific circumstances of his arrest, nor are we given any evidence for his innocence. Although, even without those details he gives us a famous suspense story that is violent and graphic yet hopeful and ethically allusive. The stories intentions aim at not only the physical pain of death, but the realization that a victim has no choice but to die. Whether the narrator chooses to jump into the pit or get separated by the pendulum, he faces an indistinguishable conclusion —death. This may not be the path any of us want to take in our life time, but in the end, we have no choice. This story strives to display his lack of choice while displaying hope when he does what some would call nearly impossible; he does not submit to the swooning and recruits his sensible abilities. When he awakes from his swoon, he faces complete darkness. This story has...
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