Historical Context in The Pit and the Pendulum
Historical Unreliability in “The Pit and the Pendulum”: Although Poe wrote “The Pit and the Pendulum” in 1842, the story takes place during the height of the Spanish Inquisition, implemented during the 15th through the 17th century to destroy heresy in order to promote and maintain Catholic Orthodoxy throughout Spain and Spanish territories. Individuals who refused to convert were subject to brutal torture including “autos-da-fe,” a judgement ceremony where heretics were condemned to death and burned alive. Throughout the story, Poe melds fact and fiction by rooting the story in a real event and dramatizing it through fictional horror. For example, General Lasalle, who saves the narrator from impending death, served as a general under Napoleon during the Peninsula Wars, which occurred following the height of the Spanish Inquisition. In addition, the Latin epigraph at the beginning of the story was never erected on the gates of the Jacobin House, as the text seems to suggest. By disregarding historical reliability, Poe creates a horror-filled landscape meant to terrify readers.