What are the three types of conflict in "The Pit and the Pendulum"?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most obvious general conflict is that the prisoner (the narrator) is being imprisoned and tortured during the Spanish Inquisition.

After being unconcious for a period of time, he awakes to find himself in total darkness. He eventually stands and carefully navigates around the outer walls, finally realizing how close he comes to falling into the steaming pit in the center of the room. He survives this conflict and discovers something to eat and drink, which revives him somewhat.

Surviving the pit, he reflects on two conflicting ways of death: by physical torture or by "moral" (mental) torture. He determines that the Inquisition has selected the moral alternative.

Once again he eats and drinks, but he soon passes out and determines it is from the drug-laced food. He awakes to find himself strapped to a fixed object and, staring upward, believes that he is watching the ceiling painting moving. It is actually a large scythe that is slowly descending and moving from side to side. As it comes closer, he notices the sharpness of the object and finally sees that it will eventually reach him. How he will escape becomes his next dilemma. The rats that scramble around him will also save him when he coats the strap with food and watches them eat through his binding. He evades the pendulum just as it is about to strike.

Thinking freedom is close at hand, he finds that the walls are now closing in upon him and that the only way out is into the pit. But suddenly the walls recede, and the prisoner is saved by French troops who have liberated the city.

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The Pit and the Pendulum

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