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The Pit and the Pendulum

by Edgar Allan Poe
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Why don't the monks simply throw their victim into the abyss in "The Pit and the Pendulum"?

The monks in "The Pit and the Pendulum" don't simply throw their victim into the abyss because Poe wished to create a sense of terror in the story, which he accomplishes by describing torture, and because through this sense of terror, Poe is able to highlight the irrationality and perverseness of the Spanish Inquisition and its religious extremism.

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This is a good question. If the monks had found the narrator guilty of death, why not just execute him in a simple and straightforward way?

We can come up with several explanations. First, Poe is trying to evoke a mood of terror in this story, and that can best...

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This is a good question. If the monks had found the narrator guilty of death, why not just execute him in a simple and straightforward way?

We can come up with several explanations. First, Poe is trying to evoke a mood of terror in this story, and that can best be done by dragging out the horror of the death. Second, the Spanish Inquisition seems to take a special delight in sadism.

In this, it is pitted against the rationalism that is represented by the French General, Lasalle, who saves the narrator from death at the last possible moment. Poe seems to be trying to communicate the message that the kind of religious extremism represented by the Spanish Inquisition is irrational and perverse. First, the victim seems to have no idea why he is being punished, and second, that fact doesn't seem to matter. The Inquisition seems to delight in torturing victims just for the sake of torturing them. There is no end to the terror it wishes to inspire. There seems, too, to be no end to its ingenuity in devising sadistic punishments, from trying to slice its victim in half with a giant sharpened pendulum to having the walls close in so he is forced into a pit. This irrationalism represents the nightmare-like quality that fanaticism creates and that Poe was trying to convey—and that is interrupted the moment reason enters the scene.

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