Edgar Allan Poe is best known as the author of numerous spine-tingling stories of horror and suspense. “The Pit and the Pendulum” is a classic example of Poe’s ability to keep readers on the edge of their seats with almost nightmarish terror. However, Poe should also be remembered as the American author who helped to establish and develop America’s major formal contribution to the world of literature-the short story. Poe was the first writer to recognize that the short story was a different kind of fiction than the novel and the first to insist that for a story to have a powerful effect on the reader every single detail in the story should contribute to that effect. “The Pit and the Pendulum” is a striking example of Poe’s ability to follow his own advice about the artistic unity of a short story.

Finally, Poe should be remembered as an artist who had the uncanny psychological understanding of the most powerful, deep-seated fears and anxieties of human beings, as well as the technical skill to write stories which unerringly focused on those fears. “The Pit and the Pendulum,” with its emphasis on the terror of absolute darkness, on the fear of falling into a bottomless pit, and on the panic of helplessness, is a singular example of Poe’s expertise at creating stories which capture universal human anxieties.

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