History: First published in 1842. The story is especially effective at inspiring fear in the reader because of its heavy focus on the senses, such as sound, emphasizing its reality, unlike many of Poe's stories which are aided by the supernatural. The traditional elements established in popular horror tales at the time are followed but critical reception has been mixed. Poe was following an established model of terror writing of his day. Those stories, however, often focused on chance occurrences or personal vengeance as a source of terror.
Plot: The story is about the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, though Poe skews historical facts. The narrator of the story is deemed guilty for an unnamed crime and put into a completely dark room. He passes out while trying to determine the size of the room. When he wakes up, he realizes there is a large, deep pit in the middle of the room. He loses consciousness again and awakens strapped on his back, unable to move more than his head. He soon realizes there is a large blade-like pendulum hanging above him, slowly getting closer to cutting through his chest. He finds a way to escape but the burning iron walls of his prison start to move and close in on him, pushing him closer and closer to falling into the pit. As the prisoner begins to fall into the pit, he hears human voices. The walls rush back and an arm catches him. The French Army has taken Toledo and the Inquisition is in the hands of its enemies.
Review: I found it to be very descriptive, scary, and short. I plan on reading more Poe, one of the more famous classic writers right now.
Opening Line: “I was sick.”
Closing Line: “The inquision was in the hands of its enemies”.
Quotes: “In the deepest slumber -- no! In delirium -- no! In a swoon -- no! In death -- no! even in the grave all is not lost. Else there is no immortality for man.”