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The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum

by Edgar Allan Poe

Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?

We know how the story ends from the beginning. Our narrator lives – of that we can be sure. Otherwise he wouldn't be our narrator, right? That said, though our story ends in life, we readers (and our protagonist) must pass through the proverbial rock and hard place to get there. It's not an easy journey, that's for sure.

Having caught himself at the edge of the pit and having triumphed over Father Time and his razor-sharp pendulum – having survived, in short, two life-or-death predicaments – our narrator is then put in what you might call a "death or death" situation. Death by pit or death by burning walls. Yep, after all his trouble, it seems like the possibility of staying alive (cue the Bee Gees) has been totally extinguished. He's forced to engage in an unwinnable game.

Lucky for our hero, the game's rules change at the very end. General Lasalle comes in and saves the day. Does this lessen or cheapen the power of our hero's thoughts? Heck no. In fact, it's what makes it possible for us to even know his thoughts – if he hadn't been rescued, our protagonist could never have told his story. Just as he's given life, he's given a voice as well. (If you look at the "Seven Basic Plots" category in our "Plot Analysis" section, you'll get a different take on Lasalle's last-minute Deus ex machina rescue.)

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