The Pit and the Pendulum
by Edgar Allan Poe
The Pit and the Pendulum Life, Existence, and Consciousness Quotes
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All is not lost, though, for the narrator supposes that those memories from beyond, even if they can't be recalled at first, will come back eventually, and often without warning; and we are amazed when they do come. He then goes on to link these revelations with the creation of art and the work of the imagination. It seems, ultimately, that the narrator's harrowing experience has led him to understand how art and original ideas come to be.
So far I had not opened my eyes. I felt that I lay upon my back unbound. I reached out my hand, and it fell heavily upon something damp and hard. There I suffered it to remain for many minutes, while I strove to imagine where and what I could be. I longed, yet dared not, to employ my vision. I dreaded the first glance at objects around me. It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I grew aghast lest there should be nothing to see. At length, with a wild desperation at heart, I quickly unclosed my eyes. My worst thoughts, then, were confirmed. The blackness of eternal night encompassed me. (6)
For the narrator, the idea of being conscious of nothing is more frightening than encountering the most visible of horrors.
There was another interval of utter insensibility; it was brief, for upon again lapsing into life there had been no perceptible descent in the pendulum. But it might have been long – for I knew there were demons who took note of my swoon, and who could have arrested the vibration at pleasure. Upon my recovery, too, I felt very – oh! Inexpressibly – sick and weak, as if through long inanition. (24)
Losing consciousness is bad enough; it's worse when your tormentors are aware of your every lapse into insensibility – and are willing to take advantage of them.
As I put a portion of it within my lips there rushed to my mind a half-formed thought of joy – of hope. Yet what business had I with hope? It was, as I say, a half-formed thought – man has many such, which are never completed. I felt that it was of joy – of hope; but I felt also that it had perished in its formation. In vain I struggled to perfect – to regain it. Long suffering had nearly annihilated all my ordinary powers of mind. I was an imbecile – an idiot. (24)
By the end of his ordeal, our narrator can barely think. His mind works only in half-measures. He becomes an "idiot" in the way the term used to be used – a man mentally handicapped by fear.