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Symbolism’s of Hell in “The Pit and the Pendulum”

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In the short story, Poe uses the pit to symbolize hell. In the beginning, the soldier describes going into the pit as “a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades” (Poe 268). The descent reminds the reader of hell in that it is beneath the surface of the ground. Also, when the soldier describes the mad rushing, it can represent hell because nothing in hell is supposed to be orderly or calm. In the Bible, hell is described as a chaotic and tortuous place.

“Hades” is an allusion to Greek mythology and describes the underworld.

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Through the description of the pit from the soldier, the pit is considered hell because it is a chaotic and underground place. The soldier also says, “faces in coal that glow”, after he is brought down into the pit (Poe 268). This could also allude to hell because fire is an element commonly related to hell. Another element of hell that is used in the pit is the demon drawings on the walls.

They are used to scare the prisoners that are being tortured. Demonic figures are a symbol of hell and because they are used in the short story, they add to the pit being a symbol of hell.

In the pit, there is a hole near the middle that is a deep abyss. This abyss provides terror when the soldier realizes he has almost fallen into it, just as hell provides lasting terror. This abyss reminds the reader of hell because it seems like hell is a bottomless pit of lasting eternity. Through the elements described in the pit, Poe uses it as a symbol to guide the reader to view the story as a decent into hell. Another symbol used in “The Pit and the Pendulum”, that contributes to the story being read as a descent into hell, is the pendulum.

After seeing the pendulum, the narrator notes that it is “perceptively descended” as he realizes that the pendulum is slowly falling closer to him (Poe 274). This pendulum has a sharp bottom that will cut the soldier in half when it reaches him. As the pendulum gets nearer to hitting him, the solider knows his life is getting closer to ending. Whenever the pendulum reaches him, the soldier will die. The soldier also says that the pendulum “swung through the air” (Poe 274). The movement of the pendulum is similar to a clock, which goes along with the theme that the pendulum symbolizes time.

Depending on how low the pendulum is, the life of the soldier is slowly getting closer to ending. The pendulum provides imminent death just like hell provides imminent and lasting torture. Watching the pendulum as it descends closer to him tortures the soldier mentally as if he is in hell. When the soldier uses the rats to save himself from the pendulum, it reminds the reader of hell because rodents are imagined to be in hell. The pendulum is symbolic of a clock and life ending, making it a key element in the idea of the story being read as a descent into hell.

The final symbol that allows the short story, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, to be read as a descent into hell is General Lasalle. As the soldier is about to fall into the pit after many tribulations and struggles to stay alive, he is saved. The soldier says, “An outstretched arm caught my own as I fell fainting into the abyss” while describing his saving (Poe 280). This is symbolic of salvation because the soldier was saved moments before he would have fallen to his death. A man named General Lasalle saved the soldier from dying and can represent Jesus.

This is symbolic of salvation because just like the General saved the soldier, Jesus will save us in the end. After being saved, the soldier describes hearing trumpets playing, and he says, “there was a loud blast as of many trumpets” (Poe 280). In the Bible there are many times that trumpets blasting represent holy events. This is an element that makes the saving symbolic of salvation because in the Bible music plays a role in salvation. Poe uses many symbols throughout “The Pit and the Pendulum” that allow the reader to discern the short story as a descent into hell.

The pit is used to symbolize hell because it is underground and is described as having demons drawn on the walls. Poe also uses elements that are commonly perceived as relating to hell such as fire and torture. Another element used is the pendulum, which symbolizes the amount of time left in the soldier’s life. General Lasalle is symbolic of salvation in that he saves the soldier. Also, the element of music is present, which relates to salvation. “The Pit and the Pendulum”, by Edgar Allan Poe, can be read as a descent into hell through the symbolisms in the pit, the pendulum, and General Lasalle.

Cite this Symbolism’s of Hell in “The Pit and the Pendulum”

Symbolism’s of Hell in “The Pit and the Pendulum”. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/symbolisms-of-hell-in-the-pit-and-the-pendulum/

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