ENC 1102 02-18-2004 Short story analysis of: The Cask of Amontillado By: Edgar Allen PoeIn one of Edgar Allen Poe’s best-known Tales of horror, “The Cask OfAmontillado,” he suggests that pride can be a very dangerous thing. Poepresents the compelling drama of two men, one who will stop at nothing toget the revenge that he deems himself and his family worthy of, and anotherwho’s pride will ultimately be the catalyst for his death. Fortunato fallsprey to Montresor’s plans because he is so proud of his connoisseurship ofwine, and it is for the sake of his own pride that Montresor takes revengeon Fortunato. In this essay I will examine how Poe utilizes plot elements,style, narration, setting, theme, symbolization, and literary devices inorder to create such a horrific and suspenseful masterpiece.
“The Cask of Amontillado” weaves all the plot elements together insuch a way as to keep a readers attention throughout the entire storywithout wanting to put it down. This story starts its inciting incidentwith the Montresor meeting his friend Fortunato seeking revenge “Thethousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when heventured upon insult I vowed revenge. . . It was about dusk, one eveningduring the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered myfriend” (Jerome B et al.
70). Next, the story moves to its rising action inwhich Montresor explains to Fortunato that he has purchased a cask ofamontillado luring Fortunato into the catacombs of Montresor’s wine vaults”I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have mydoubts” (Jerome B et al. 70). The turning point occurs when they descenddeep into the catacombs of the vault toward the elusive amontillado “”Come,let us go.
” “Whither?” “To your vaults”” (Jerome B et al. 71). The ClimaxOccurs after there decent, where Fortunato explores a niche in hopes offinding the amontillado when the Montresor chains Fortunato up and startsto wall him in “At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared anotherless spacious. . .
A moment more and I had fettered him to the granite. Inits surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet,horizontally. From one of these depended a short chain, from the other apadlock. Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a fewseconds to secure it. . .
With these materials and with the aid of my trowel,I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the niche” (Jerome B et al. 73). The falling action begins as the Montresor finished walling upFortunato “I forced the last stone into its position” (Jerome B et al. 74). After walling up Fortunato the reader is led to the conclusion in whichMontresor wishes that Fortunato rest in peace. Then leaves implying thatthis story had been eating at him for half a century “Against the newmasonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones.
For the half of a century nomortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat” (Jerome B et al. 74)!Romanticism is defined as neo classicism or the rejection ofintellect in which emotions must be use to express thoughts or ideas. Theseworks like “The Cask of Amontillado” are very dramatic pieces that are setin erotic and in an awkward places.
“The Cask of Amontillado” is a murderbased on emotions hence defining the story as romantic “The thousandinjuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he venturedupon insult I vowed revenge” (Jerome B et al. 70). Furthermore, the settingis a pre-Lenten carnival in an Italian city, sixth through fifteenthcentury making it erotic and awkward “was skilful in the Italianvintages. .
. it was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of thecarnival season”(Jerome B et al. 70). Poe also implemented styles of realism and gothic into this story. Realism is defined as making the story and events come to real life withinthe reader’s head, or something that is not too far beyond belief. Thisstory, when read in its entirety, seems not too far from reality and soundslike an event that might have actually occurred even though the readerknows its fiction.
To further implement this idea the characters have nosuper human powers or strengths, they seem to be average people “”Myfriend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which Iperceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They areencrusted with nitre. “. .
. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, toinsure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back wasturned. . . He turned towards me, and looked into my eves with two filmyorbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication. .
. a succession of loud andshrill screams” (Jerome B et al. 70-74). The masons was a club any well offman could have been in “You? Impossible! A mason” (Jerome B et al.
72)? Thegothic style was that of a particular time period from around 500 A. D. tillaround 1600 A. D.
this implanted in a story would remind you of the middleages “It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of thecarnival season” (Jerome B et al. 70). Poe in this particular story used the first person participantnarration in which the Montresor (“I”) is narrating the story where othercharacters as well as Montresor participate. This is best shown in the endwhere he is recounting events that occurred fifty years ago and tellingthem to someone, maybe for forgiveness of sins, “For the half of a centuryno mortal has disturbed them.
In pace requiescat” (Jerome B et al. 74)!Moreover, the Montresor shows that he is speaking to a friend when he says”You, who so well know the nature of my soul” (Jerome B et al. 70). The story begins around dusk, one evening during the carnival seasonin an Italian city. The location quickly changes from the lightheartedactivates associated with such a festival to the damp, dark catacombs underMontresor’s palazzo, which helps to establish the sinister atmosphere ofthe story.
In addition to the physical setting you have the separation ofthe nobles, which are the wealthy to whom this story is about. Also, inaccordance with the setting you have a couple of politically powerfulgentlemen one seeking a good time and the other seeking revenge. The leastdistinguishable of the settings would be that of religion, since Montresoris telling the story fifty years after it happened, a reader would be leadto the conclusion that he is about to die and need’s to confess his sins sohe can go to heaven (Catholicism). The emotional setting of the story wouldbe that of a revengeful friendship in which Fortunato will be betrayed bythe Montresor.
“The Cask of Amontillado” is a powerful tale of revenge. Montresor,the sinister narrator of this tale, pledges revenge upon Fortunato for aninsult. Montresor intends to seek vengeance in support of his family motto:”Nemo me impune lacessit. ” (“No one assails me with impunity. “) (Jerome Bet al. 72) On the coat of arms, which bears this motto, appears ” a hugehuman foot d’or, in a field of azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampantwhose fangs are embedded in the heel.
” It is important for Montresor tohave his victim know what is happening to him. Montresor will derivepleasure from the fact that “. . .
as Fortunato slowly dies, the thought ofhis rejected opportunities of escape will sting him with unbearable regret,and as he sobers with terror, the final blow will come from the realizationthat his craving for the wine has led him to his doom” (Quinn 500). Instructure, there can be no doubt, that both Montresor’s plan of revenge andPoe’s story are carefully crafted to create the desired effect. Poe’s use of symbolism is very creative from the names of thecharacters to the types of wines named in the story. First, the nameFortunato is based off of fortunate, which would stand for his prosperityin life but is also ironic since he will end up dead. Montresor definedwould have been a hunter with intent to kill without injury, which isexactly what he does. Next, the wines from the amontillado to the Medoc andthe De Grave, the amontillado represent their wealth and “connoisseurship”(Jerome B et al.
70) in fine wines. The Medoc was used as medicine to helpthe Fortunato’s cough. Finally, the De Grave (of the grave) is ironic dueto the fact that it was his last wine before entering his tomb. “The Cask of Amontillado” had extensive usage of many literarydevices. Poe used irony in almost every paragraph one example of this isMontresor’s statement to his friend Fortunato that they should returnbecause his “health is precious” (Jerome B et al.
72). when Montresorstated this he did not want Fortunato to turn back to protect his health,but indeed to kill him. Another instance of this would be, when Fortunatopursues the “cask”(Jerome B et al. 71), which ends up being his own casket. Another literary device Poe used many times in this story wasforeshadowing.
One example of this would be when Fortunato jests toMontresor that “”The cough’s a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shallnot die of a cough””(Jerome B et al. 72). he was right he would not die ofa cough.
Another example of foreshadow is Montresor’s coat of arms andfamily motto is a foot stepping on a snake and the snake in a field ofazure with its fangs in the heel, accompanied with the phrase “Nemo meimpune lacessit,” “no one assail me with impunity” (Jerome B et al. 72). Montresor was vowed to avenge his family’s blow by Fortunato, even thoughwe never find out what the insult was. Poe used more than just irony and foreshadowing in his story he alsohad auditory imagery and gothic imagery. When reading through the story aperson can practically hear the bells ringing from the jester hat thatFortunato is wearing “The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled”(Jerome B et al. 72).
another example of this auditory imagery is towardthe end when Fortunato is screaming as Montresor is walling him up “Asuccession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat ofthe chained form” (Jerome B et al. 74). Also, he uses gothic imagery withthe visuals of vaults and crypts “”To your vaults”” (Jerome B et al. 71). Also, the way Poe portrays the “”Nitre”” (Jerome B et al. 71), reminds thereader of a gothic setting.
In the end you never find out what Fortunato’s insult was that woulddrive Montresor to such insanity to kill a person. The Montresor’s coat ofarms and family motto is a foot stepping on a snake and the snake in afield of azure with its fangs in the heel, accompanied with the phrase”Nemo me impune lacessit,” “no one assail me with impunity” (Jerome B etal. 72). meaning I (Montresor) will get revenge.
The reason Montresor isable to recall all the events so vividly is due to the fact that the murderhas been eating at him since the events unraveled. Finally, the free masons(an international secret society of nobles, one who builds with stone) rolein the story was to humiliate Montresor and play the role of ironic tonebecause a trough in the end will wall Fortunato up. In conclusion, Poe’s usage of all the key elements in literature isextensive, for such a short story. With a beautifully written and conciseplot and extreme use of literary devices. His styles transcend from threedifferent types in one story and the way he does it is amazing. Thenarration of the story as a first person participant is outstandinglyawkward and enjoyable to read.
In the setting Poe does a great job oftaking a reader out of their seat and transplanting them into the story. The main theme of revenge is portrayed clearly as well as the symbolism ofalmost everything throught “The Cask Of Amontillado. ” All this, tiedtogether, is what created Poe’s horrific and suspenseful masterpiece. Works CitedJerome B. , Alison B. , J.
Paul H. , and Kelly M. , The Norton Introduction toLiterature. 8th ed. London: Castle House, 2002.
Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. New York: D,Appleton-Century Company, 1941.