The Pit and Pendulum: To What Degree Can We Judge Literature of Other Times and Places Based on Out Cultural and Contemporary Values?
Happy ending? As good as can be expected in Poe's sensory horror thriller-- or is it all a hallucination tripped by mental illness? The "unholy mob of torturers" refers to the radicalized French Jacobin Club, which led the Revolutionary government named "The Reign of Terror." Foes of both the Church and atheists, they persecuted their enemies by guillotine, and were eventually defeated by unified republicanism in France. We can assume the "funeral cave" refers to their persecution, and that prisoners were finally freed after they were subdued ("life and health appear"). While the epigraph seems to provide a "CliffsNotes" of the story, Poe intentionally keeps the specifics of the prisoner's charges, conviction, and reason for torture from the reader.
Poe, A. Edgar. The Pit and the Pendulum and Other Stories. Penguin Books: London, UK, 1995. Print.
Wang, Bella. “Summary and Analysis of The Pit and the Pendulum. Short Stories Study Guide”. GradeSaver, 29 July 2009. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. http://www.gradesaver.com/poes-short-stories/study-guide/summary-the-pit-and-the-pendulum