The Pit and the Pendulum
Versions of Reality Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
The sentence, the dread sentence of death, was the last of distinct accentuation which reached my ears. After that, the sound of the inquisitorial voices seemed merged in one dreamy indeterminate hum. It conveyed to my soul the idea of revolution, perhaps from its association in fancy with the burr of a mill-wheel. This only for a brief period, for presently I heard no more. Yet, for a while, I saw, but with how terrible an exaggeration! I saw the lips of the black-robed judges. They appeared to me 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, of immovable resolution, of stern contempt of human torture. (1)
Our narrator's thoughts are restless – he can't help but make associations. His inquisitors' voices become an "indeterminate hum" which becomes an idea of "revolution," an idea that is, itself, based on an analogy between sound and word. Confusing stuff, but then again, our narrator's a pretty confused guy.
I saw, too, for a few moments of delirious horror, the soft and nearly imperceptible waving of the sable draperies which enwrapped the walls of the apartment; and then my vision fell upon the seven tall candles upon the table. At first they wore the aspect of charity, and seemed white slender angels who would save me: but then all at once there came a most deadly nausea over my spirit, and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill, as if I had touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and I saw that from them there would be no help. (1)
Here, again, it's hard to tell if the narrator is just making a visual association – "the candles reminded me of angels" – or if he's actually hallucinating. Perhaps he's "seeing" the candles morph into angels and then, just as quickly, into "meaningless spectres." What do you think?
And then there stole into my fancy, like a rich musical note, the thought of what sweet rest there must be in the grave. The thought came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long before it attained full appreciation; but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel and entertain it, the figures of the judges vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the blackness of darkness supervened; all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades. Then silence, and stillness, and night were the universe. (1)
Poe creates a super vivid depiction of sound, thought, and sight. The thought of "sweet rest" comes into his mind like a musical note. In this case, though, the note resolves into nothing and nothingness. All of the narrator's perceptions are essentially weak and unstable; they are, in fact, able to be totally "swallowed up."