In "The Pit and the Pendulum," why is the narrator held captive? Why is he happy that he falls on his face? How does he escape the pendulum? What is the final danger that he faces?  

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We do not learn why the narrator has been taken captive. When the story begins, he is in the midst of his trial, and while he sees his judges speaking, he is unable to hear them. He is overcome with horror. Later, he is so happy to have fallen on...

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We do not learn why the narrator has been taken captive. When the story begins, he is in the midst of his trial, and while he sees his judges speaking, he is unable to hear them. He is overcome with horror. Later, he is so happy to have fallen on his face because, had he taken even one more step, he would have plummeted to his death in the pit in his pitch-black cell. He says,

my chin rested upon the floor of the prion, but my lips, and the upper portion of my head, although seemingly at a less elevation than the chin, touched nothing. At the same time, my forehead seemed bathed in a clammy vapor, and the peculiar smell of decayed fungus arose to my nostrils.

He realizes that he'd fallen just off the edge of a very deep and circular pit, and this fall has actually saved his life.

Later, the narrator escapes the pendulum by rubbing the oil and fat from the meat left for him onto the ligaments that bind him beneath the weapon and allowing the rats to come and gnaw on them until he is free. He sees that he

had not counted in vain upon their voracity. Observing that [he] 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.

After several minutes he realizes that the rats have freed him from his binds! The final danger he faces is the heating and movement of the walls that would seem to compel him to jump into the pit. He says that the room grew flatter and flatter" like a "lozenge" quite rapidly so that he barely has time to think. Just as he is about to fall, he is saved.

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The narrator in Edgar Allan Poe's story is being held captive and tortured by the Spanish Inquisition. As an arm of the Catholic Church, the Inquisition was primarily occupied with verifying the religious faith of Moors and Jews who claimed to have converted to Catholicism. However, as the Inquisition gained more power, it cast a net over those whom it perceived as threats, so the narrator could have been a political prisoner rather than a heretic. The story does not specify the charge for which the narrator was found guilty and sentenced.

When the narrator is first imprisoned in his cell, he finds himself in utter darkness. He attempts to measure the size of his chamber by feeling his way around the perimeter. At one point, however, he trips and finds his face hanging out over a pit. He realizes if he had tried walking across his cell he would likely have fallen into the deep pit. He knows the pit is very deep, and the fall might have killed him, but he speculates that if he had not died from the fall, he would have been eaten alive by the rats that live in the well. Falling on his face was a blessing that no doubt saved his life.

The man is able to escape from the pendulum because of those very rats, ravenous as they are. He has been given food which he can reach with a hand--that allows him to survive during the days the pendulum is descending. He must constantly shoo the rats away from his food. His bonds are cloth rather than metal. He gets the idea to smear his food onto his bonds wherever he can reach them; the rats then eat through his bonds and he slips off the platform just as the pendulum has reached him.

The final danger he faces is the danger of the hot moving walls that press in on him, pushing him toward the pit. He is rescued by General Lasalle just as the walls have brought him right to the brink of the fearsome pit.

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