illustration of a blade on the end of a pendulum swinging above a man's head

The Pit and the Pendulum

by Edgar Allan Poe

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What are the elements of "The Pit and The Pendulum"?

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The setting of the story is Toledo, Spain, during the Spanish Inquisition. The narrator has been arrested, tried, condemned, and imprisoned in a cruel and inhumane way.

The conflict, I think, is that of character vs. self. The narrator loses consciousness as a result of his fear several times, and he struggles to control that fear and to remain calm so that he can retain consciousness as well as sanity. He talks about the "agony" of his imprisonment and each of the new terrors prepared for him. He might have opted to jump into the pit, or he could have lapses into unconsciousness due to fear while under the pendulum, but he fights feelings of hopelessness and keeps his head, and this is what enables him to survive.

There is mainly only one character: the unnamed narrator. His judges come and go fairly quickly at the beginning of the story, and General Lasalle, his savior, appears for just a moment to save him at the very end.

The point of view is first-person objective: this means that the narrator is a participant in the events of the story (and uses the first person pronoun "I") and that he narrates the events after they occur (instead of while they occur). You can see that he uses past-tense verbs, which indicate this timing.

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The elements of a story are the setting, plot, conflict, characters, point of view and the theme.  In Pit and The Pendulum we have one lone character.  A man taken prisoner, tried, and convicted by unseen men in black robes.  The setting is in a prison, the conflict is how the man can get free from his all most certain death from the pendulum.  The story is written in the first person point of view and the theme is Life vs Death or the struggle for survival.  You can find more details in the link below.

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