Edgar Allan Poe at His Absolute Horrific Best

This might be the worst Internet image of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” but it’s in the public domain. Thanks, Wikimedia Commons!

I share with you one of the most beautifully horrific passages in American Literature. It comes from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum.” It’s a description of the rats in the dungeons of Toledo, for whom the narrator finds a use.

Oh, before we get to the passage, here’s a lesson plan that involves using descriptive language: Show and Tell Lesson Plan.

This lesson plan is part of “The Pit and the Pendulum Teaching Guide.” It contains over a week of lesson plans aligned to the common core standards, graphic organizers with answer keys, a quiz with an answer key, an essay, a summary, analysis, and more. It’s only $5.95.

At first, the ravenous animals were startled and terrified at the change — at the cessation of movement. They shrank alarmedly back; many sought the well. But this was only for a moment. I had not counted in vain upon their voracity. Observing that I remained without motion, one or two of the boldest leaped upon the framework, and smelt at the surcingle. This seemed the signal for a general rush. Forth from the well they hurried in fresh troops. They clung to the wood — they overran it, and leapt in hundreds upon my person. The measured movement of the pendulum disturbed them not at all. Avoiding its strokes, they busied themselves with the anointed bandage. They pressed — they swarmed upon me in ever accumulating heaps. They writhed upon my throat; their cold lips sought my own; I was half stifled by their thronging pressure; a disgust, for which the world has no name, swelled my bosom, and chilled, with a deadly clamminess, my heart. Yet one minute, and I felt that the struggle would be over. Plainly I perceived the loosening of the bandage. I knew that in more than one place it must be already severed. With a more than human resolution I lay still.

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