08 Sep 2012

Sample Essay: The Cask of Amontillado

Poe weaves a mood of gloom, despondency and grotesque into “The Cask of Amantillado” by using various literary devices such as plot, setting, theme, etc. The plot is diabolical and simple. Planning to take revenge on Fortunato, Montresor lures him to the deep family wine vault and buries him alive in the crypt. “Every action that Montresor takes in order to redress the wrongs he has suffered at the hand of Fortunato strengthens the tale’s tone of impending doom” (Smith 225). The story takes place at dusk in an unnamed European city. It opens at the time of the carnival season and soon shifts into “a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame” – setting up the sinister atmosphere of the story.  “The Cask of Amontillado” is a first person narrative and Montresor is the narrator. This approach exposes the workings of a criminal mind and intensifies the sense of shock and horror (Garrity 117). The main theme of story is one of revenge. “I must not only punish but punish with impunity” says Montresor. There is also the theme of reverse psychology in the plot. Montresor says if Fortunato is too busy, he will take Luchesi instead to taste the wine knowing well that Fortunato does not like Luchesi and loves rare wine and these references will persuade him to follow Montresor.

In “The Cask of Amontillado” there is a fusion of a macabre sense of humor with deep irony. Montresor keeps toasting to the health of Fortunato whom he plans to murder, as they both descend to the catacombs.  “It reflects the humor of a mind tickled by its own perversity” (Magistrale 94).  Dramatic irony occurs when Fortunato goes into the cellar unaware that he is moving towards his end. Verbal irony is present when Montresor responds “True—true…” in response to Fortunato’s remark “I will not die of a cough”.  The ultimate irony is that Montresor who seeks peace by killing Fortunato finds himself entrapped in the memories of the crime even fifty years later.

Works Cited

Garrity, Roberts Nancy (2000). Classic Middle School Literature Mystery: Mystery. Good Year Books, 2000

Magistrale, Tony (2001). Student Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT

Smith, A. Patrick (2002). Thematic Guide to Popular Short Stories. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002

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