Monday, February 6, 2012

Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum"

This is my 2nd post about Edgar Allen Poe's works. I haven't read all his work by any means, but I have had a good sampling now. Yesterday, I finished three Poe short stories, "The Masque of the Red Death" "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Purloined Letter"

I was very much in anticipation concerning "The Masque of the Red Death." From other readings, specifically the forward to the collection, I got the impression it was something remarkable and unforgettable. I was very, very disappointed. It was not even worthy a shudder to my modern desensitized sensibilities. I have been similarly disappointed in most of Poe's stories. We, as modern people, see so much violence and carnage on regularly braodcast television, not to mention the truly graphic horror flicks, that much of Poe doesn't reach me as I was expecting.

Then I was had my awe re-newed with "The Pit and the Pendulum." More than frightening (in the startled screaming sense) Poe's horror tends to illict a shudder and even groan in the back of my mind when his effects over-reach my punch-drunk senses. With his protagonists, I often wonder, "How much horror can one man take?"

From this story, I have now learned the word "viand." Looking it up was my etymology lesson for the day. And, like many others of Poe's words, his usage is somehwat different from what the dictionary says. By the way, I tried to use the word "poe" in scrabble once, based on my Zelda memories, and was very displeased to find out it isn't considered a word.

And then on to "The Purloined Letter." This is a very different type of Poe story, without even the horrific details of the tale's precursor, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (which I found isn't about a mortuary, by the way). It is a straight detective story, with much the feel of a Sherlock Holmes story. Arm-chair deductions, and unusual hiding places.

The shuddering reptitions of horrific experiences seen in "Pit/Pendulum" are seen again in Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, his book, as well as other stories.

Another favorite story I read was Loss of Breath, although generally all were good reads.

I have another collection of Poe stories I sought out to read. Apparently, Poe has some "Mark Twain" like humorist short stories, too, and these I am curious about.


  1. Oo, I'm glad you got to read The Pit and the Pendulum. I had forgotten he wrote that, or I would have recommended it for sure. Even for me, that story was thoroughly spooky and shudder-inducing. It's kinda like Victorian era Saw. Or maybe Saw used this plot for one of their torture games. (Or maybe it's Hostel I'm thinking of. Oo, just thought of another movie you need to watch ;) )

  2. it's been a long time since I read poe, but i like him and i know all my kids like him. each of them has a complete works collection. i remember the cask of amontillado, the tell-tale heart, and the black cat all being especially tense reading.