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The Pit and the Pendulum
by Edgar Allan Poe
The Narrator Timeline and Summary
This is pretty much just a condensed version of the "Detailed Summary," since the whole story is about this one guy, but hey, here you go. When the story begins, our narrator is surrounded by white-lipped judges in a courtroom. He's feeling groggy, and suddenly, he faints. When he comes to, our narrator can't see a thing. He thinks at first that he's in a tomb, but then realizes that he's just in a really dark room. He walks the perimeter of the room to try to figure out its size, but he constantly feels faint. Our narrator discovers a pit in the middle of his cell: it's a deep well with a pool of water far below. Now he's pretty sure that the water and bread he's been given is drugged, making him fall asleep (again). When he wakes up again, he's tied to a wooden frame, with just his left arm still free. On the ceiling above, he notices the figure of Father Time holding a pendulum. The pendulum has begun to lower and to swing. What's worse, our narrator sees that the pendulum's bottom is a razor-sharp crescent of steel. Eek. Days seem to pass as the pendulum continues to lower slowly toward our narrator's heart. When the pendulum is a foot from his heart, he has a stroke of genius: he wonders if the rats that have gathered around him could gnaw his bindings off. Our narrator rubs meat juice on his bindings, and… it works! The rats chew him free, just in the nick of time. But then, the walls around him glow fiery red, and they begin to close in on our narrator. He inches closer and closer to the center of the room until he's standing just at the edge of the pit. Just as he's about to fall in, an arm reaches out to grab him. His torture session is over, as is the Spanish Inquisition.