Type: Narrative Essays
Sample donated: Maria Haynes
Last updated: August 15, 2019
Mankind has an extraordinary motivation to live.
Edgar Allan Poe illustrates this well in his short story, The Pit and the Pendulum, first published in 1843. The story takes place in Toledo, Spain during the 15th-16th century under the Inquisition, a Catholic institution that persecuted and killed Protestants and rebellious catholics. The setting is characteristic of Romantic writing in that it takes place toward the end of the medieval era and under organized religion. The narrator of the story is sentenced to death by the Inquisition. His ordeal and emotional catastrophe while awaiting death are meticulously described by Poe who appeals to our emotions at every turn. It is the suspense of the unknown and the emotional, detailed torment behind it all that is so representative of Romantic writing.The mood of the story is also characteristic of Romanticism, possibly Dark or Gothic as the words imply.
It takes place in a dark, gloomy, ominous prison dungeon where insurmountable mental torture is inflicted on the prisoner. The details of this infliction and the struggle to remain alive are horrifying and Poe allows the reader to almost feel the pressure and fate of the situation. He tells us of the “vague horror at his heart” (251). Poe rouses feelings of hopelessness and despair where death is the only pliable option when he says “I could no longer doubt the doom prepared for me by my monkish ingenuity in torture” (256). Even though the narrator believes he is going to die, he continues to demonstrate a strong will to live.
Poe is careful in creating the image of the dungeon cell and the despair the prisoner feels which is representative of this era.Poe makes clear that the narrator wants life over death as he fades in and out of consciousness, of which patterns are often found in Poe’s writings. He often eludes to this hope during his narrative of the ordeal.
Right from the beginning, the prisoner emphasizes his fate as Poe describes “the dread sentence of death” and the “delirious horror” (249-50). Again, Poe uses gloom and sadness to demand our feelings of anguish.