© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum


by Edgar Allan Poe

The Pit and the Pendulum Theme of Death

In "The Pit and the Pendulum," Death is on the narrator's mind from the very first line, right up until the final moment. The strange thing is, for a story that's as morbid as can be, it ends with life. Of course, we realize that the narrator obviously has to live in order for him to tell us how he almost died. Thus, in giving his character life, Poe is able to make us ponder death. Very cool. What do you think: can a story in which no one dies really be about death?

Questions About Death

  1. For our narrator, death isn't a simple thing; what are the different ways he describes the process of death and dying?
  2. Why are the inquisitors so interested in killing the narrator in such strange ways? Wouldn't they be happy just to have him dead?
  3. What do our narrator's "near-death" experiences teach him about the nature of death?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"The Pit and the Pendulum" is, when you get down to it, an examination of death and dying – despite the fact that no one in the story actually dies.

If no one dies, it's not about death. Period. End of sentence.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...