Essay on A Fear of Death: Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum

Essay on A Fear of Death: Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum

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Death is unavoidable no matter the circumstances. However, how one dies, that is a subject of the unknown. In the end, if one had the choice of how to die, the decisions could fluctuate between countless possibilities. It is a natural human instinct to fear death because of the unknown and Edgar Allan Poe does not deny this claim. In Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum, the narrator of the story is tormented in a prison during the Spanish Inquisition; this fear of death is created from natural human instincts. The fear of the narrator creates a raw, psychological human reaction that, by natural instinct generates a confrontation with the unconscious Self.
Poe’s themes in his poems and short stories reveal a Gothic look on the world that includes morbid imagery that some people would not be comfortable with reading. In The Pit and the Pendulum, the narrator has to make a drastic decision that not most would have to make: the choice of how to die. Although, the true horror of The Pit and the Pendulum is not just a matter of the choice of death, I believe it is also in the horror of no matter the result, he will die either way. Death in this situation is unavoidable and creates a strain in the human subconscious because of the natural human instinct to want to live. Burduck in his book Grim Phantasms: Fear in Poe’s Short Fiction writes that “of all the emotions by and affecting the mind, feat most intrigued Poe” (5). Poe’s use of fear is seen throughout many of his works and The Pit and the Pendulum is a prime example of this. The narrator in the story is put into an underground dungeon that he cannot get out of. The darkness encompassing him brings a “fearful idea” to his mind and in the dark waves his arms widely about in all dire...


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...the Fragmentation of the Psyche: ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’” Neneteenth-Century Literature. 46.1 (1991): 82-95. University of California Press. Web. 28 March 2014.
Moldenhauer, Joseph. “Murder as a Fine Art: Basic Connections between Poe’s Aesthetics, Psychology, and Moral Vision.” PMLA. 83. 2 (1968): 284-297. Modern Language Association. Web. 28 March 2014.
Poe, Edgar Allan. Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966. Print.
Pruette, Lorine. “A Psycho-Analytical study of Edgar Allan Poe.” Ther American Jounal of Psychology.31.4 (1920): 370-402. University of Illinois Press. Web. 28 March 2014.
Thury, Eva and Margaret K. Devinney. “Theory: Man and His Symbols.” Introduction to Mythology: Contemporary Approaches to Classical and World Myths. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 519-537. Print.



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