The Pit and the Pendulum Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

The Pit and the Pendulum book cover
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How does Poe create suspense in "The Pit and the Pendulum" through the use of various literary devices?  What are the different types of suspense that the reader experiences?

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Edgar Allan Poe was the master at using a number of literary devices in his works. The Pit and the Pendulum is one of his most famous stories. In this story he sets up great suspense and a wonderful use of literary devices.

The story opens with a man on trial. It is during the Spanish Inquisition, and the narrator is telling us his story of what has happened to him. We don't know why he is on trial, and there are seven tall candles on a table. As he watches the candles melt her feels his hope for surviving diminish. As he goes to the torture chamber, we see Poe using his literary devices. Poe uses a couple different devices to make us see what is happening. He uses anadiplosis, which is when the last word or words of a sentence is used as the first word or words in the next sentence.

"That I could not force my imagination to regard as unreal. Unreal even when I breathed." The next example could be "For the moment at last I was free. Free and in the grasp of the inquisition" these are just a couple of examples he uses.

He also uses vivid descriptions of things. When he wants to really make something stand out to the reader, he uses such great descriptions. The description of the torture chamber is an example of this. 

"I now observed with what horror it is needless to say, that its nether extremity was formed of a crescent of glittering steel, about a foot in length from horn to horn; the horns upward and the under edge evidently as keen as that of a razor appended to a weighty rod of brass."

He also uses symbolism throughout all of his works. The darkness of the torture chamber is a symbol of the darkness happening during the inquisition.

The suspense we feel is so very clever. We have suspense in the fact that we have no clue what the narrator is on trial for. What was his crime? When he is in the torture chamber, we have no idea what is going to happen to him or how far the torturer is willing to go. We see that the narrator is frightened by what he sees at the bottom of the pit, although we are not told what it is he has seen. We are left wondering the horrors of what could be at the bottom. Edgar Allan Poe was so creative in his works. He uses words and descriptions that put the reader inside the story.

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