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The Pit and the Pendulum

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.