The narrator has been taken captive by the leaders of the Spanish Inquisition. He has been placed in a cell made of metal walls. There is a pit in middle of the cell.
At one point, the narrator nearly falls into the pit but is saved by tripping on the torn edge of his robe. For this, he can thank the enemy for taking his clothes and giving him the robe.
At another point, there is a slowly descending, swinging pendulum with a razor-sharp edge that is directly over the narrator's heart. The narrator is bound to a board.
The narrator does not lose hope. He smears meat on his bindings and the rats chew through the cords that hold the narrator prisoner.
After freeing himself from the ropes or cords that held the narrator underneath the descending, razor-sharp pendulum, the cell begins to close in and the walls begin pushing the narrator toward the deep pit.
When the narrator has lost all hope, he is rescued as General Lasalle grabs his arm to keep him from falling into the pit. The French have overtaken the enemy.
Throughout the narrator's torment, he remains hopeful which is credit to the strength of the human spirit.
The narrator's amazing resilience, after each close-to-death experiences, is evidence that the human spirit is stronger than death.