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The Pit and the Pendulum

by Edgar Allan Poe
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Could be the purpose of the pit be a sort of temptation in "The Pit and the Pendulum"?

In "The Pit and the Pendulum," the pit can serve as a symbol of temptation, because the narrator realizes that to fall into it would be the end of his agony. The "sweet rest" he would find there is tempting, given his present circumstances, but ultimately, he chooses to endure and is rescued in the end.

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If one were to read "The Pit and the Pendulum" through a literary critic's psychological and biographical lenses, it could indeed be an allegory for the slide into temptation and the devastating results that it could bring. In this story, the narrator has been imprisoned and is being...

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If one were to read "The Pit and the Pendulum" through a literary critic's psychological and biographical lenses, it could indeed be an allegory for the slide into temptation and the devastating results that it could bring. In this story, the narrator has been imprisoned and is being tortured; when he figures out his physical circumstances in the dungeon where he is being held, he has the option to let himself fall into the pit and end his agony. He comes to this realization, allowing himself "the thought of what sweet rest there must be in the grave."

Viewed in these constructs, Poe could be making an observation about the temptation of self-annihilation one might feel when they are metaphorically groping in the darkness of the unrelenting tortures of life. Poe had significant struggles with difficult interpersonal relationships, hostility from literary critics, chronic poverty, binge drinking, and the fatal illnesses of most of the people he loved.

The fact that the protagonist of the story holds out as long as he can until he is rescued by outside forces might speak to Poe's desire for a deus ex machina in his own life. The story's narrator avers that "it was hope—the hope that triumphs on the rack—that whispers to the death condemned even in the dungeons of the Inquisition." It is arguable that Poe believed and communicated through this story that while suicide would be an escape from pain, there is an unquenchable desire to keep living that enables men to endure.

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