What words from Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" would associate with the head words "fainted" and "black-robed"?  

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Not knowing the purpose of this interesting exercise, I will approach it as a Freudian psychoanalytical word association, also called free association, which Freud developed as a means of discovering the pathology of the neurotic mind. Word association requires that an individual respond to a word spoken with the first word that associatively comes into her/is head; the method has been employed in the belief that this rapid-fire response scenario reveals deep subconscious levels of beliefs and feelings by circumventing (i.e., getting around) automatic defense mechanisms designed to protect a person's neuroses, fears, and traumas. Word association applied to textual analysis may conceivably accomplish two things.

Firstly, it may reveal how an author has carefully chosen vocabulary to set-up an upcoming event, for instance, how Poe may have set up the notion of fainting through associative words before revealing that the narrator fainted, or swooned. Secondly, it may reveal how an author has carefully chosen vocabulary to underpin or underscore an important concept, for instance, how Poe may have underscored the concept of death-dealing judges through associative that helped build both horror and suspense into the narrator's situation. Some associative words from the opening paragraph of "The Pit and the Pendulum" for the two categories follow.

fainted
sick unto death
senses were leaving me
delirious horror,
one dreamy indeterminate hum
deadly nausea over my spirit
sweet rest
nothingness
flames went out
blackness of darkness
silence
stillness
night
rushing descent
swooned
consciousness was lost

black-robed
sentence of death
dread sentence
inquisitorial voices
firmness
immovable resolution
stern contempt
decrees
Fate
sable draperies
heads of flame
judges
darkness supervened

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