The Pit and the Pendulum

1070 words 5 pages
The Pit and the Pendulum" Symbolism: Although the events in the story create suspense and interest, its the story's deeper meaning that makes it so good. An analysis of the pit (death or hell), the scythe/pendulum (time and death), and the angelic forms of the Inquisitorial tribune (angels of death) are three of many symbols in the novel.
Stripped of extraneous detail, the story focuses on what horror truly is: not the physical pain of death, but the terrible realization that a victim has no choice but to die. Whether the narrator chooses to jump into the pit or get sliced in half by the pendulum, he faces an identical outcome—death
The Spanish Inquisition was a religious court set up by the Catholic Church and the Spanish
government
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It was some thirty or forty feet overhead, and constructed much as the side walls. In one of its panels a very singular figure riveted my whole attention. It was the painted figure of Time as he is commonly represented, save that in lieu of a scythe he held what at a casual glance I supposed to be the pictured image of a huge pendulum, such as we see on antique clocks. There was something, however, in the appearance of this machine which caused me to regard it more attentively. While I gazed directly upward at it (for its position was immediately over my own), I fancied that I saw it in motion. In an instant afterward the fancy was confirmed. Its sweep was brief, and of course slow. I watched it for some minutes, somewhat in fear but more in wonder. Wearied at length with observing its dull movement, I turned my eyes upon the other objects in the cell. (18)
To understand the passage, first you have to know how the figure of Time is "commonly represented." As Poe mentions, he's usually got a scythe. Does that remind you of anyone else? Well, it should. The figure of Time has its basis in, among other things, the Grim Reaper. Yep, the guy that brings death.
So let's take a closer look at Father Time, Usually, he's is holding a scythe, and also some kind of timekeeping device, like an hourglass. As you might expect, the hourglass symbolizes the passing of time. As for the scythe,

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