How many events occur in the story "The Pit and the Pendulum"?  

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When one reads a short story, one can think of it in terms of the story arc, that is, the rising action, climax, and falling action. These events are related to the plot and follow the development and resolution of the conflict. Another way to think of a story is to follow the story line, that is, to follow the events of a story in chronological order. This will give an understanding of what happens in the story, whereas following the plot helps one understand why things happen.

In Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Pit and the Pendulum," the main events unfold as follows:

1. The narrator is tried and sentenced.

2. The man wakes up in a dark dungeon; he tries to determine how large it is and what its features are by walking around the perimeter.

3. The man falls asleep, then wakes to continue his exploration. He trips and finds his face hanging over the edge of a pit.

4. The man drinks and sleeps from the drugged liquid. When he wakes up he can see the cell. He finds himself strapped to a low table.

5. The pendulum above him begins to swing and slowly descend for days. 

6. When the blade gets very near his chest, the man escapes by rubbing meat on his bonds, which causes the rats to chew through them.

7. Upon his escape, the pendulum is withdrawn upwards. The walls begin to heat up and close in on him.

8. Just as he is about to be forced into the pit by the moving walls, he hears noises, and the walls are drawn back. He has been rescued by General LaSalle.

Much of the story involves the thoughts of the man as he undergoes the psychological agonies involved in the torture. The main events are relatively few and straightforward; the suspense occurs as the reader participates with the main character in the fears and mental torture his captors inflict on him. 

Read the study guide:
The Pit and the Pendulum

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