The Pit and the Pendulum Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

The Pit and the Pendulum book cover
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What is happening in the first four lines of the story "The Pit and the Pendulum"? Describe the dramatic tension this opening creates.

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Before the story begins, we are presented with an epigraph in Latin which translates as follows:

Here an unholy mob of torturers with an insatiable thirst for innocent blood, once fed their long frenzy. Now our homeland is safe, the funereal cave destroyed, and life and health appear where dreadful death once was.

By beginning with some lines in Latin, the meaning is slightly less accessible and begins the story with added mystery. This is compounded by the note that follows:

Quatrain composed for the gates of a market to be erected upon the site of the Jacobin Club House at Paris.

Who were these Jacobins? This group took control of France in the early 1790s, growing more and more radical as time passed. Eventually, they just began beheading via guillotine anyone who disagreed with them. This became known as the "Reign of Terror" in France.

This epigraph furthers the mood that Poe is crafting, one that is dark, fearsome, and horror-laden. It is also a reminder that the Spanish Inquisition...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1,069 words.)

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