B. Essays from Norton Reader or Writer’s Resource—five page minimum C. Literature pieces (short stories, novels, essays, plays. No Poems)
Entries should be from various authors. See syllabus for suggested titles
Format: Student will write an essay consisting of at least two paragraphs. Synopsis and response of novels and plays must be longer. The first paragraph will give a summary of the plot: characters, setting, plot development
Second -third paragraph/s will provide a criticism of the work: style; word choice (diction); syntax; purpose of point of view; tone; mood; use of irony
Do not exclusively explain why you disliked, liked the work. Instead focus on analysis of the piece. How was the author effective, how ineffective? What was the purpose of the piece? What strategies did he/she employ? Did the piece achieve the purpose?
“The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe is short story that strikes fear into the reader. The main character is condemned to die a painful death for some unknown crime. Set during the Spanish Inquisition in Toledo, Spain, the story describes in first person the horrible fate of the protagonist. He is tortured by several dire methods including being bound to a wooden frame and threatened by a pendulum with a razor-sharp edge coming ever closer to his torso. Tempting rats, he rubs the bindings with juice from the meat his captors have allowed him. The rats chew off the bindings freeing him only to meet the next challenge. Iron hot walls threaten to force him into the pit, an abyss in the middle of the torture chamber. Just when it seems that the protagonist has lost the battle, he is rescued by the French General La Salle.
“The Pit and the Pendulum” is a captivating short story. Poe’s use of sensory details when describing the slime on the floor, the scratching of the rats, and the sound of the swinging pendulum sets the fearful mood. His use of irony throughout the story, but especially in the central theme of punishment or death in the name of religion, is clever. Because the story is told from the victim’s point of view, it is even more interesting.
Even though the author spins a well-told tale, he neglects some obvious problems. For example, because of the first person point of view the ending is clear and ruins any suspense Poe intended. In addition, the desperate protagonist’s handling of each new challenge, devising yet another new plan to combat the torturers, wore thin after the first five incidents. Another difficulty with the story is the vocabulary used by Poe. Finally, the ending of the story (denouement) is rather contrived and seems to be taking the easy way out. Although I definitely recommend this story, I suggest you keep a dictionary close at hand, and do not attempt to predict the ending.