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

Expert Answers
ophelious eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Conflict types, as used when it comes to literature, describe one of five kinds of conflict found in stories: man versus man, man versus nature, man versus himself, man versus society, and man versus fate/God (this is a bit of an expansion...it seems like when I was in school they only had the first three.)  Anyhow, let's run with the five when looking at "The Pit and the Pendulum."

  1. First, man versus man.  I don't think this one so much applies.  There is no one real adversary described in the story.  The things trying to kill him are really traps.  You could maybe make a case that the guy who comes in and ties him to the table would be an adversary, but I don 't think that was Poe's intention.  His real opponents in the story are inanimate.
  2. Secondly, man versus nature. This one does not apply either.  There is no "natural" force at work in the story, such as a storm or an avalanche.
  3. Third, man versus himself. This one is present, though not totally obvious through Poe's prose.  The main character is reasoably self controlled and doesn't seem to "lose it."  Nevertheless, to overcome the blackness of the "pit scenario" and the dread of the "pendulum" once must come to terms with one's own fear.  So I think this conflict is present, though not explicit (if that makes sense!)
  4. Fourth, man versus society. This one is a biggie in the story.  The reason he is being executed in the first place is because he has wronged society (at least as the judges of the inquisition see it.)  That is the crux of the conflict of the story...the man is up against the social structure of the inquisition.
  5. Lastly, man versus fate/God. I don't see this one.  Even though the Inquisition was religiously based, it's not really developed in the course of the story.

So, anyhow, there you are.  Good luck with your class!

Read the study guide:
The Pit and the Pendulum

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question