“The Pit and the Pendulum” Edgar Allan Poe
Contextual Setting of “The Pit and the Pendulum” The Spanish Inquisition1478 - 1834
The Spanish Inquisition • Spain had just suffered a civil war. • Queen Isabella came to rule with her husband King Ferdinand. • Spain was comprised of 3 major religious groups: Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim. • King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella decided to unite the country under one religion – Catholicism.
The Spanish Inquisition • Spanish Jews and later Muslims were forced to accept Christianity. • Most historians agree that the motivation for the Inquisition was greed. • The Spanish Inquisition was halted briefly in the early 1800’s when Napoleon’s army invaded & defeated Spain. • Napoleon named his brother as Spain’s new ruler. • It lasted until 1834.
The Spanish Inquisition • Jews and Muslims were accused of converting to Christianity only to save their property. • Anyone could accuse anyone else of heresy. • Once they were found guilty, their property was confiscated. • They were imprisoned, tortured, and executed.
The Spanish Inquisition • Tomas de Torquemada, a Dominican priest, presided over thousands of trials and about two thousand burnings at the stake. • Auto –da-fe literally means “act of faith” in Portugese. • Torquemada would perform this religious ceremony, which consisted of a Mass and death sentence, before the executions. • 15,000 to 20,000 were tried during this time.
“The Pit and the Pendulum” • The setting of the story is a Spanish prison in the 1820’s. • At the end of the story, General Lasalle and the French army enter Toledo, a city in Spain.
Works Cited • “The Inquisition: Power, Greed, and Suffering.” Elements of Literature. Orlando: Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston, 2008. • NALLE, SARA TILGHMAN. "Inquisition, Spanish." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. The Gale Group Inc. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 31 Mar. 2009 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
“The Pit and the Pendulum” Literary Elements
Point of View • 1st Person Narrative • Nameless Prisoner
Protagonist Nameless Prisoner Antagonists His Insanity (Inner Conflict) His Tormentors (External Conflict) Conflict
Untimely Death Isolation Torture Survival (Will to Live Vs. Desire to Die) Fear Loss of Time Persecution Themes
Genres • Fiction • Horror • Gothic – Supernatural horrors and atmosphere of unknown terror; extreme emotions (anger, fear, surprise, etc.) • Poe is given credit for being the father of the detective story.
Style • Use of Latin & French • Minimal use of characterization, plot, and atmosphere • Interest in what happens to people rather than the individual • Continually uses a male protagonist • Famous for use of suspense
Symbols • Pit - Hell • Pendulum - Slow, approaching death; time ticking down • Father Time – Zeus’ father, Cronus, controller of time • Darkness – the unknown, ignorance • Rats – a potential problem turned positive • Unseen Tormentors – Personal “demons”