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Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the pendulum demonstrate an arabesque look at the human mind. Part of the terror of "The Pit and the Pendulum" stems from the apocalyptic imagery with which Poe establishes his narrative framework. The narrator of the tale seems not to parallel the characters of Poe’s other tales, in that he is very sane and his torture comes from without rather than from within.
Poe has used apocalyptic imagery in many of his works (Spealght 235). Condemned to torture and death by the black-robed, white-lipped judges of the Inquisition in the opening scene of the tale, the narrator observes seven candles, which first dissolve in his mind into seven angels wearing an "aspect of charity" and then, disconcertingly, into "meaningless specters, with heads of flame." The angels and candles allude to Revelation
1.12-14: "I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven
candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire." By beginning the tale with the narrator's trial and death sentence and by couching these events in apocalyptic imagery, Poe heralds the narrator's, and hence the reader's, entrance into a nightmare world of punishment, dissolution, and death, an announcement amply fulfilled by the violence, pain, and horror experienced by the narrator in his prison cell.
Although its presence is less immediately apparent in the tale, the Book of Revelation also sets forth the promise of salvation; the eternal life granted the faithful. Despite its depiction of the present age as given over to the forces of evil, Revelation proclaims that judgment and the destruction of the world will be followed by the creation of a new heaven and a new earth (21.1). Fittingly, then, Poe concludes his tale with blaring trumpets, "fiery walls," and "a thousand thunders", apocalyptic images that describe the narrator's deliverance by General LaSalle as a sort of Second Coming of Christ. Indeed, removed from its allusive context, the narrator's rescue is difficult to account for since, as David H. Hirsch has pointed out, it is neither foreshadowed in the tale nor congruent with its overwhelming
oppression. However, in light of Revelation 16.15 - "Behold, I come as a
thief " - the narrator as well as the reader accepts the unexpectedness of LaSalle's  and the narrator's escape.
Commentators have of course, recognized Poe’s allusions to Revelation and several apocryphal books of the Bible. Hirsch observes that the final paragraphs of the tale neatly counterpoint the first by reversing the narrator's loss of hearing, and then collapse with auditory amplification and expansion. According to Hirsch, "the 'dreamy indeterminate hum' of the opening lines is caught up in the 'discordant hum' of the conclusion; the 'burr of a mill-wheel' is amplified into the 'thousand thunders,’ and the collapsing image of the 'blackness of darkness supervened'" is inverted "into the expanding image of the fiery walls rushing outward". Hirsch suggests, moreover, that the "outstretched arm of General LaSalle" represents a "submerged allusion" to Isaiah 59 "where the Lord is portrayed as a warrior clothed in the armor of righteousness who stretches forth his arm to bring salvation".
The problem for critics interpreting "The Pit and the Pendulum" has not been in recognizing Poe's allusions, but rather in determining what to make of them. Hirsch, for example, is uncomfortable with the conclusion that the narrator's deliverance represents "transcendent hope," a judgment he finds "inconsistent with the themes of many of Poe's other stories and Beard-The Pit and the Pendulum-4
a violation of generally accepted beliefs about Poe's thought"(2). Speculating on how Poe might have come to write a tale of spiritual transcendence, Hirsch conjectures that Poe was attracted to the Bible's "language of despair," and that although he apparently intended to write a story about the irrationality and injustice of divine creation, "the dialectic spirit of Biblical apocalyptic operative in the story and the transcendence downward into a transcendence upward"(3).
In "The Pit and the Pendulum" we have a more complicated kind of horror and perhaps a different ... more

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“The Turn of the Screw” as a Representation of Victorian Sexual Repression

L.R.G.
“The Turn of the Screw” is largely a representational book. For the most part, I think it stands to characterize Victorian views of sexuality. The entire book seems to be sex related in one way or another. Everything that happens, from Miles being kicked out of school to the governess seeing ghosts, can be interpreted with a sexual connotation.

When Miles is kicked out of school, no one says exactly why. After reading the letter from the school, the governess only says that, “he’s an injury to others.” Because of the indirect nature of this discussion, we are left believing that the reason for his dismissal is related to sex in some way. We hear nothing more about this subject until the very end when Miles reveals that he “said things” to “those he liked.” Whether this means he did sexual things with other boys or just discussed things with them, we do not know. The important thing to realize is that he was banished from school for this activity, demonstrating that any sexual activity, including discussing it, was an offense punishable by expulsion.

At the lake, Flora is seen moving a stick in and out of a hole in a piece of wood. The governess mentions that she is making a makeshift boat, but we are not fooled. This is a clear demonstration of how sexual inquiries or tendencies were ignored and denied in children. Miles was punished because his activity apparently harmed other students. Flora’s action was simply denied because she was alone with the governess and did not “harm” anyone.

James also throws in an element involving sexual relations between members of different social classes. Miss Jessel and Peter Quint were former employees at Bly who are both deceased. By reading into the story a bit, one can easily infer that the two were sexually involved and Miss Jessel became pregnant. Not only because they were not married, but also because Quint was of a lower class than Miss Jessel, it was shameful for her to be pregnant with his child. Her mysterious death is easily interpreted as a suicide.

At some points in the story, homosexuality is hinted at. One could infer that there was some sexual attraction between Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, and the governess. Mrs. Grose kisses the governess on one occasion and on another, the governess calls Mrs. Grose her “pet.” On some occasions the story insinuates that there was a sexual relationship between Miles and Peter Quint. They apparently spent time together alone, quite often.

Also, I find several hints at the governess’ infatuation with Miles. At one point she says, “he wanted, I felt, to be with me.” Because of the extreme sexuality of this book, I can’t help but equate that comment with sex. At the very end of the book the governess says to Miles, “What does he matter…. I have you.” “He” being Peter Quint.

This brings me to the most important aspect of the book, the governess’ ghosts. I believe that the ghosts she claimed to see were embodiments of her sexual frustrations. Because part of being a governess was being unmarried and having no gentlemen flatterers, the governess obviously had some issues with sexual repression. I think the purpose of these ghosts is to further accentuate sexual repression as a whole, not only the governess’. In the story the ghosts seem to be the reason for her erratic behavior when in reality, sexual repression is the reason for it. The way that James wrote the story, setting it up in a frame, works very well with this idea. Although we are hearing the story from an unnamed narrator who heard it from Douglas at a holiday party, the governess is the author and one who experienced the events. Because she wrote the manuscript, it works well to consider the ghosts as symbols for her sexual frustration.

I think the purpose of this book is to present and refute Victorian ideals about sexuality. While I understand that other, very different interpretations of the book exist and are feasible, this one is definitely the most dominant to me. The overwhelming sexual connotations of every ... more

the narrator 8220

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  • 8220Much of the irony in The Pardoner8217s Tale de 8220Much of the irony in The Pardoner8217s Tale de 8220Much of the irony in The Pardoner8217s Tale derives from Chaucer8217s duplication of narrative levels8221 Discuss this statement Much Of The Irony In The Pardoner\'s Tale Derives From Chaucer\'s Duplication Of Narrative Levels Discuss This Statement is written in the form of a frame narrative. A short prologue introduces each tale, the tale is then told and we then return to the frame. Such a framing device requires the reader to continuously move between the frame and the embedded narrative...