The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe

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What is the setting and plot of "The Pit and the Pendulum"?  Who are the characters?

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The characters include the narrator, a man who is sentenced to die by the Spanish Inquisition, and there are also the unnamed, "black-robed judges" who condemn the narrator to death.

The plot of the story opens with the narrator being sentenced to death by a panel of judges. Upon hearing his sentence, he passes out and is carried into a damp and dark chamber below ground.

The blackness of eternal night encompassed [him].

He wonders if he will starve to death in his dungeon. The narrator tries to map out his chamber by touch, but it seems to be much bigger than he'd assumed. He falls asleep and wakes up to find bread and water beside him. At one point, he falls down and realizes that there is a huge pit into which he almost fell. Once again falling asleep, the narrator awakens to find that he's been strapped down beneath a giant swinging pendulum. He realizes that the pendulum is descending and getting closer to him. He knows that, once his tormentors learned of his knowledge of the pit (into which they must have hoped he would fall), they devised another method of disposing of him. Soon, the pendulum is within inches of the narrator's chest. He rubs some meat that has tempted the rats near him onto the ties that bind him so that the rats will chew through them. He gets free, but he is nearly forced to leap into the pit when he hears the trumpets of General Lasalle's French army entering the city, thus ending the Inquisition.

At one point in the story, the narrator references the other cells of the condemned in Toledo as well as the "Inquisition." Therefore, we can infer that the setting for the story is Toledo, Spain, during the later years of the Spanish Inquisition, which definitively ended in the 1830s.

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gwestern | Student

The setting takes place in an apartment, where the narrator sees the white judges for the first time. He is sentenced by them and then he suddenly blacks out. When he awakes, he is in a very dark place, also known as the pit. The pit is actually a dungeon, this is an example of Poe's symbolism. The pit is dark, deep, scary, and lonesome. The unusual thing about the pit is that there is an additional abyss inside the pit the narrator is already in. This gets the narrator thinking about his torture and his possible upcoming death. Like many of Poe's stories,"The Pit and the Pendulum" isnt much more than multiple macabre situations. The plot of this story is: the unknown narrator is imprisoned, then escapes torture three different times, and then is finally rescued by General Lasalle and the French Army.

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