illustration of a blade on the end of a pendulum swinging above a man's head

The Pit and the Pendulum

by Edgar Allan Poe

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What are the 5 major literary devices in "The Pit and the Pendulum"?

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Poe begins the story with an epigraph, though it is a faux epigraph, since he wrote it himself. An epigraph is a short quotation at the beginning of a literary work to suggest the work's theme. "The Pit and the Pendulum" begins with a Latin inscription Poe himself wrote as commentary on the fall of the French monarchy in the late 1790s, which Poe relates to the Spanish Inquisition in his story.

Poe chose the first person point of view of narration to tell the story. Using the first-person pronoun, "I," Poe pulls the reader into the story by creating intimacy with the person telling the story.

Poe makes use of sense imagery, creating sights, sounds, and sensations of the conditions in the dungeon where the narrator is being held.

Poe utilizes allusion when he writes "And now, as I still continued to step cautiously onward, there came thronging upon my recollection a thousand vague rumors of the horrors of Toledo" to reference the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition.

As he concludes the story, Poe utilizes the deus ex machina technique to free the narrator from his tortures; General LaSalle and his troops rescue him in the nick of time.

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There are at least five major literary devices in "The Pit and the Pendulum."

Edgar Allan Poe is the "father" of the horror story.  The first device is one that he uses so masterfully in his stories:

Suspense.  What is known by the narrator as he describes his experience is dark and frightening, and what he does not know further heightens the intensity of the plot development.  In the "prison" in which they place him, the dark allows him to feel somethings but other details remain, literally, in the dark as he cannot see.

Another device is imagery.  In describing the "lips of the black-robed judges," he describes them as white, "whiter than the sheet upon which I trace these words--and thin even to grotesqueness; thin with the intensity of their expression of firmness..."

Another literary device is the use of metaphors.  "My vision fell upon the seven tall candles...seemed white slender angels who would save me...the angel forms became meaningless spectres..."

Foreshadowing occurs with the repeated references to motion and movement: "there came back to my soul motion and sound--the tumultuous motion of the heart...again sound, and motion...and a successful effort to move."  This foreshadows the motion of the pendulum.  "I saw it in motion..."

Hyperbole (exaggeration): "Could I have broken the fastenings above the elbow, I would have seized and attempted to arrest the pendulum.  I might as well have attempted to arrest an avalanche!"

Repetition is used describing first the figures that carried him down into the dungeons: "down--down--still down...," and later describing the relentless movement of the pendulum toward the narrator  "Down...Down...Down."  And again, "THE PIT...THE PIT."

Poe uses literary devices artfully, not only in his stories, but also in his poetry.

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