The Pit and the Pendulum Lesson Plans | The Pit and the Pendulum Analysis

“The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe is a short story of horror that uses detailed sensory imagery in order to instill fear and horror in the reader. The story delves into the very basic human fear of torture, and because of the time period in which it takes place (the Spanish Inquisition), it is also a fear of torture due to religious intolerance.

Poe uses the classic characteristics of his usual Gothic genre flair, including a bleak location, an impending threat of violence, a character in physical and psychological torment, and a seemingly otherworldly element in charge of the plot. These elements combined with the characters’ realization of his impending doom by either a razor-sharp pendulum or a cavernous abyss create yet another Poe-ian world of despair, fear, and a yearn for redemption. Poe explores various themes along the way, including fear, intolerance and injustice, and the power of despair.

Student Activities for The Pit and the Pendulum

Essential Questions for “The Pit and the Pendulum”

  1. Why is it important to be tolerant of other religions and beliefs?
  2. Is torture an ethically or morally correct practice?
  3. When can a punishment become unjust?
  4. How can despair become an important tool for a character to use?
  5. What is an ethical dilemma?

  6. The Spanish Inquisition

    The Spanish Inquisition began under King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I of Spain in 1478. It was meant as a continuance of the Medieval Inquisition, and it lasted in various forms until 1834. The purpose of the Inquisition was to determine the authenticity of Jews and Muslims who had converted to Christianity—in other words, it was to ensure that they really did become Christians, and not just to avoid expulsion from Spain. It quickly became a weapon for monarchs to use against political enemies, much like the Salem Witch trials in the 1690s and the McCarthy trials of the 1950s. It is important to note that while Pope Sixtus IV approved the process, he did so with many misgivings. However, he needed the Spanish military power at the time to protect Rome from the Turks.

    Some of the consequences of the Spanish Inquisition included:

    • Expulsion and persecution of Jewish and Muslim peoples
    • 3,000-5,000 executions
    • 100,000 trials
    • Made Spain a primarily Catholic country, which impacted colonies, especially in South America
    • Censorship of books and writers found to be heretical or in political opposition
    • Protestantism rose in response to oppression and persecution by the Church

    For more information on the Spanish Inquisition, have students visit


    More Storyboarding Activity Ideas for "The Pit and the Pendulum"

    It is so easy to use our assignment wizard to create your own activity from scratch. All you have to do is: give your assignment a title, add directions, provide a template and send it to your students! You can even use any of the storyboards you see within our activities as examples by quickly and easily copying and customizing them for your intended purpose. Don't forget to look through our thousands of worksheet and poster templates as well! You can add as many templates to an assignment as you'd like!

    1. Create an alternate ending to the short story, "The Pit and the Pendulum" with a storyboard that shows and tells the story from a different perspective.

    2. Complete a storyboard biography of Edgar Allan Poe. (This is a great pre-reading activity!)

    3. Ask students to create a graphic novel using multiple storyboards that depict the various works of Poe.

    4. Give students the opportunity to storyboard their answers to "The Pit and the Pendulum" Study Guide Questions using images and text, or write their own summary!

    5. Want to take Storyboard That offline? Create “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe worksheets with questions and illustrations related to the short story.

    6. Add a presentation to create a “The Pit and the Pendulum” interactive project!

    Ideas for Post-Reading Activities for "The Pit and the Pendulum" for pairs, groups or individuals!

    Storyboard That is an excellent tool for students to create fun and engaging projects as a culminating activity after finishing a novel or poem. In addition to our premade activities, here are some ideas that teachers can customize and assign to students to spark creativity in individual students, pairs, or small groups for a final project. Several of these ideas include Storyboard That templates that can be printed out or copied into your teacher dashboard and assigned digitally. All final projects can be printed out, presented as a slide show, or, for an extra challenge, as an animated gif!

    1. For Groups: Turn Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Pit and the Pendulum" into a short play to reenact the narrative for the class! Use the traditional storyboard layout to plan out your scenes. You can add text to your storyboards, or simply use the cells to visualize each scene of your play.

    2. Using one of Storyboard That’s board game templates, create a game based on the short story for your classmates to play!

    3. For Groups: Divide the parts of the story amongst your group members. Each member of the group creates a storyboard for their assigned part.

    4. Using the worksheet layout and Storyboard That’s worksheet assets, create your own "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe worksheet! They can be in the form of a test or a quiz for other students in the class. You can create all kinds of questions such as multiple choice, short answer, and even matching! When you are done, be sure to make an answer key.

    5. Using one of Storyboard That’s biography poster templates, create a poster about the character or the author. Be sure to include important biographical features such as: place and date of birth, family life, accomplishments, etc.

    6. Create a book jacket for the short story using one of Storyboard That’s book jacket templates. Use Storyboard That art to create the cover, and write a summary of the story on the back, just like real books have!

    7. Using one of Storyboard That’s social media templates as a starting point, create a social media page for the character or the author! Be sure to think how the character thinks while creating this page.

    8. Create a scrapbook page made by the character or the author. Storyboard That has lots of premade templates that you can use as is, or change to fit your character’s personality! Check out our scrapbook templates today!

    Edgar Allan Poe Lesson Plan

    Author Study

    Extend and enhance your students' knowledge of Poe and his works by conducting an Author Study. Students can research more about Edgar Allan Poe, read his various stories and poems and make connections to his life and the time period. Students can use storyboards to analyze his work, his style, prevalent themes and more!

    Buy "The Pit and the Pendulum" on Amazon

    About the Author: Edgar Allan Poe

    "Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”

    - Edgar Allan Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher", 1839

Edgar Allan Poe was an American short-story writer, poet, critic, and editor. He is internationally known as a literary genius. Some of his most famous short stories and poems, like "The Pit and the Pendulum", are dark tales of grief, mystery, macabre and the supernatural.

Some of the most famous works by Edgar Allan Poe in order of their publication are: "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839), "The Masque of the Red Death" (1842), "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1843), "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843), "The Black Cat" (1843), "The Purloined Letter" (1844), "The Raven" (1845), "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846), and "The Bells" (1848). All are considered literary classics today.

Early Life

Poe was born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. His life was fraught with tragedy from an early age. His father, David Poe, Jr. abandoned the family when Poe was just a baby. Poe's mother, English-born Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was a well-liked actress who tragically died of tuberculosis when Poe was only 3 years old. He carried an image of his mother throughout his life.

Poe was taken in by John Allan, a successful tobacco merchant in Richmond, VA and his wife, Frances Allan. While Poe was sadly separated from his siblings William and Rosalie, he was afforded the opportunity of a good education and was doted upon by Mrs. Allan, who had no children of her own. Poe showed great promise with writing at an early age but was discouraged by his foster father who preferred he go into the family business.

It is said that Poe had a loving relationship with his foster mother but sadly, Mrs. Allan, too, died of tuberculosis when Poe was a young man. Poe had a difficult relationship with his strict foster father. Mr. Allan helped Poe attend the University of Virginia for one year and later the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but otherwise he and Poe had a tumultuous relationship. Mr. Allan did little to help Poe financially and even left Poe out of his will. Despite his talents as a writer, Poe struggled with money, gambling, alcohol, and poor health throughout his life.

Career and Marriage

At the University of Virginia, Poe impressed his classmates with his talents as both a writer and an artist. While away at school, Poe's fiancee, Sarah Elmira Royster became engaged to another. Heartbroken, in 1827, Poe moved to Boston where he published his first pamphlet of poems followed by another volume in 1829 in Baltimore. In 1833, Poe published the short story, "MS. Found in a Bottle" and in 1835, he became the editor of the "Southern Literary Messenger" in Richmond. Having finally found a stable profession, Poe was then married to his much younger cousin, Virginia Clemm.

Poe was known as a harsh and combative critic at the "Southern Literary Messenger" and his stint there didn't last long. His reputation as being antagonistic was well known and he even had a feud with another famous poet of his day, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poe bounced around, working for various other magazines and journals and in 1844 he moved to New York City with his wife, Virginia. Despite his numerous publications prior, it wasn't until he published "The Raven" in 1845 that he was finally considered a popular literary star of his day. So much so that Poe's nickname even became, "The Raven". It was published in "The Evening Mirror" where Poe worked as a critic and it became an overnight sensation. While the publication of "The Raven" brought Poe great acclaim and fame, it did not bring him any fortune. In fact, he earned a mere $14.00 for it. Having lived most of his life impoverished despite steadily working, Poe was an advocate for better wages for writers.


When Poe wrote "The Raven" he was foreshadowing the loss of his own beloved. On January 30, 1847, in a tragic twist of fate, Poe's young wife, Virginia, died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 - the same age his mother was when she died and the same cause of death as both his mother and foster mother. Poe fell into a deep depression and although he continued to work, suffered poor health, both mental and physical. Poe did manage to write an ode to his lost love called, "Annabel Lee".

Poe was known to have abused alcohol and was said to have looked pale and sickly in the days leading up to his death. It is unknown the exact cause of Poe's death. Some suspect foul play, others believe that it was actually rabies that led to his early demise. He was found delirious and semi-conscious on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland and died in the hospital on October 7, 1849 at the age of 40. Poe's final words were, "Lord, help my poor soul."

Edgar Allan Poe is remembered as a singular talent of imaginative storytelling. His works helped define the Romanticism and American Gothic Literary Movements of his time and he is recognized as one of the first authors of detective fiction. His works continue to influence many books and movies today. Despite his sorrowful life, his legacy lives on.

Read more in our Picture Encyclopedia entry on Edgar Allan Poe!

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