Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. The morbid short story consist on an innocent man’s fears coming to life after he is sentenced to death. “The Pit and the Pendulum” showcases the theme of terror and cruelty by developing descriptive setting, intense plot, and creative irony. Setting is a major part of the thesis because it captures the readers attention to see what the character sees. One of the most influential setting Poe creates is when the main character is engulfed in total darkness. The quote, “the blackness of eternal night encompassed me,” help the reader fully imagine what it would be like to see absolutely nothing creating a sense of terror of not knowing what’s around. Another impactful setting was when Poe writes the pendulum scene. The pendulum quickly starts to descend swinging back and forth, all the while “ravenous” rats circle around you like predators waiting to devour what’s left.
The theme, cruelty, is more than clear in this setting, trapping the reader in true suspense. Further more, Poe builds a sense of suspense and suspicion with the uncertainty of the fate that is to come to the main character. “It seemed evident that mine was not, at least, the most hideous of fates.” Through out the story the character always manages a way to cheat his death. However, that doesn’t stop his torturers. With this in mind, Poe intensifies the plot by providing more nail-biting situations. For example, when the character has to choose his death. The walls are closing in on him, forcing him to either jump into the pit or get crushed to death. What could be more terrifying? The building up of the plot promotes the theme, terror, by having the main character make the ultimate decision. It is all too ironic the fact that despite all the character’s best efforts to save himself, he fails because the enemy is there to impede them. For instance, “when the motion of the hellish machine ceased and I beheld it drawn up, by some invisible force… My every motion was undoubtedly watched.
Free!- I had but escaped death in one form of agony, to be delivered unto worse…” However, when he gives up all hope at the end of the story, he is surprised to have been saved by General Lasalle. The sick recognition of irony supports themes such as terror and cruelty by showing how the character succeeds only to fail, just to be saved in the end. In conclusion, Poe does an impeccable job at developing the themes of terror and cruelty by truly including the reader in every aspect of the story. “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe proves to be outstanding in all perspectives of settings. He always keeps the reader interested through the suspense of the plot. The irony in the story oozes out of every word. The themes are easy to pick out only because the story is so well developed.