Study Guide

The Inquisition (Judges) in The Pit and the Pendulum

By Edgar Allan Poe

The Inquisition (Judges)

It's hard to know what to call our narrator's captors. Yes, they appear as judges at the beginning of the story – but then what? For most of the story, they're faceless torturers; they express themselves via their gruesome contraptions. We know them through the pit, the pendulum, and the contracting cell. And we know them through what the narrator calls their "monkish ingenuity," the little devious flourishes that they apply to their methods of execution: the painting of Father Time that complements the deadly pendulum, the demonic designs they've added to the dungeon walls. These are the hallmarks of true evil; they show us that the inquisitors do not punish simply because they feel it is right, but because they take pleasure in causing pain. Yikes.

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