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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In "The Pit and the Pendulum," what are the narrator's strengths against the inquisitors?

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In Edgar Allen Poe's frightening tale "The Pit and the Pendulum," the narrator is brought before the sinister judges of the Spanish Inquisition and condemned to death. He faints and then awakens in a pitch-black room totally devoid of light. The strengths that save him from the torments of the inquisitors until he is able to be rescued are his curiosity, his cleverness, and his determination.

His curiosity first serves to help maintain his sanity amidst the horrors of his situation. Instead of dwelling on the darkness and the hopelessness of his plight, he affixes a scrap of his garment to the wall for a guide and measures the length of his cell by counting the number of paces from one end to the other. This gives him the focus to avoid becoming overcome with despair.

The narrator manifests cleverness when he is bound by bandages as the deadly pendulum lowers itself toward him. Noticing numerous large rats in his cell, he spreads meat grease upon his bonds. The rats eat the bonds and free him just as the pendulum begins to cut into his flesh.

After the pendulum is withdrawn, the iron walls of the cell become hot and begin to close in on him, forcing him closer and closer to the deep pit in the middle of the floor. Determined not to perish within the blackness of the pit, he manages to hang on until the French army enters Toledo and he is rescued.

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One of the main strengths that the narrator possesses is that of his rational ability to think through each situation that he finds himself in.  As the inquisitors continually try and find new ways to drive him mad and force him into the pit, he devises ways of understanding and coping with each situation, including getting the rats to knaw through his bonds to free him from the table and death from the pendulum.

His strength also lies in some ways in the fact that he is confident in his innocence, that he does not deserve to suffer at the hands of these men.

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