Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story The Cask of Amontillado is a story that has used imagery in a great. Starting with its title Amontillado refers to a very specific kind of Spanish fortified wine while cask refers to a barer thus bringing the actual meaning of the title as The Barrel of Fortified Wine. Leaving the title behind, the short story is one that dwells on revenge and secret murder with Montresor as the narrator and the murder while Fortunato is the wine connoisseur and the victim of murder.
Plot of the Cask of Amontillado
The story begins with the Montresor explaining how Fortunato has wronged him many times but his act of insulting him is what has provoked him to revenge against him. He assures the reader that he has not given Fortunato any insight into whether he is planning to kill him and thus plans to make use of Fortunatos wine knowledge to lure him to death. Montresor entices Fortunato to come to his house to see a barer of Amontillado that he had acquired while his servants were away from the house that night so that they could have the house all by themselves and when Fortunato arrives, they go into Montresors Catacombs through a winding staircase till he succeeded in locking him in the catacombs.
The Theme of Revenge in the Cask of Amontillado
Today revenge is a common thing among people just like it was then and it has always been in the public domain that two wrongs do not make a right. This is a relevant and important statement in this scenario where Montresor revenges against Fortunato just because he had previously wronged him instead of looking for a way that they could solve their differences amicably without causing the death of Fortunato. It is therefore important for Montresor to have asked himself questions such as whether it was worth going to jail or will the decision ease his pain before opting for the option of revenging against Fortunato. The motives behind Montresors intention to revenge are clear but despite the fact that his motives are clear he was still so quick to act and it is clear that he might not know the consequences of his actions as he acted from anger.
What Is the Truth in the Cask of Amontillado
Waters argues that apart from betrayal, trust is another theme that is clear in this story (39). Fortunato, who had been insulting Montresor happens to trust the same person and goes ahead to accept the offer to go and drink with him in his house. The actions by Fortunato seem absurd to me as if I was the person who had been insulting him, I would not have trusted him to that extent. He trusts him to the extent of excessively drinking till he walks in the dark halls and also gets convinced to step into the most remote end of the hall. Therefore, we can conclude that Fortunatos misfortunes were a result of his trust in his friend who was bitter and revengeful.
Fear Elements in Cask of Amontillado
Fear is another theme that Poe has brought forward in this story. Everyone has ever thought of the fear of being buried alive at one time or another and therefore the author has utilized the fear to be buried alive to write his story. Waters states that instead of Poe making the burial a brief scene, he extends the scene so as to bring out the element of fear in the story (39). The procrastination from the burial scene to the description of the wall and the padlocks helps the author to make the story more interesting as well as create more suspense in the reader. In addition, the word choice and the style of writing pull the reader in and carry him away using vivid imagery and detailed descriptions.
Literary Analysis of The Cask of Amontillado
According to CWanamaker, The Cask of Amontillado has been ranked high on the genius side as the story is brief and concise that fulfills the author’s literary theory such that every word in the story contributes to the intended effect. In the story, there are only two characters and despite the fact that the narrator insists on his patience, in devising suitable and satisfying revenge, the story moves quickly to reach its climax. This aspect of this short story is different from other works by different authors whose works are full of verbosity, and thus in only four pages, Poe has utilized every word to bring out the main idea in the story (CWanamaker). Poe grips the attention of the readers from his opening sentence where he states that Fortunato had wronged him many times and had always borne to his best ability but due to his insults, Montresor has opted for revenge. This opening message puts the reader in a position to know that the whole story will be about revenge and betrayal. The author does not even tell the readers the origin of the characters and one is left to guess where they came from, their age, family as well as the time when the story took place. The only this that the author lets the reader know about the two characters is when he states that Fortunato was a feared and respected person who only had the weakness of being proud of his knowledge in wine matters. His pride in such a controversial matter is what led him into the trap of being revenged on by Montresor.
Many critics have complained that all the characters in the story look alike and that Poe has only one voice. However, in the story The Cask of Amontillado the narrative voice used fits perfectly with the character of the avenger. Just like in the Shakespeares Lago and Richard III, the narrator of the story is in a position to take the reader into his own confidence assuming that he was going to share his satisfaction of the revenge with them despite approving the revenge (Baraban 47). Another reader would likely identify himself with Fortunato by sharing his fears of the catacombs as well as the horror of him being walled up alive so that he could die slowly in the dark of suffocation and starvation among the skeletons of the ancestors of Montresor. It is important for the reader of this story to also realize that, despite Montresors irony and cleverness, he is an inhuman beast comparable to a madman.
With more than 150 years since it was published this story has still remained very popular and many scholars have ranked it as one of the stories that allow readers to envision the gruesome death of being buried alive as it satisfies the desire of humans to know about the unknown. Therefore, the story can be said to be one of those stories that have helped in the fulfillment of human curiosity of knowing how it would be like being buried alive. The nature in which the incidence of being buried alive runs for many paragraphs brings out the notion that slow death would be much worse than being killed instantly thus contributing to the human knowledge regarding death.
Baraban states that the tone of death has been used in the story as a thing that most people fear and would not like dealing with it (47). It is obvious that at the end of the story Fortunato dies but we can also say that Montresor also dies though not physical death but a mental death. The fact that he kills a friend in the nature he did shows that his mind must have been corrupt since there are many other ways that he would have solved the disagreement that existed between the two. In addition, the nature in which the murder was planned in his mind from the beginning shows that Montresor had made it clear that he had to kill Fortunato. Therefore, the fact that he had to sink as low as killing another person shows that he had already allowed himself to die as in the instance that an authority would have punished him for murder, then the best option would have been sentencing him to death (Baraban 47).
In conclusion, we can state that the main theme of the story is revenge and the story has become popular for many reasons despite having been published more than 150 years back. The story is read up to date since it was eloquently written and the fact that it encompasses vivid description and imagery. The story has also enjoyed the much fame it has as it caters to many needs of people as it has elements that satisfy every person's taste of a good story. The story also is educative as it illustrates how some people who have acted without reasoning have resulted in non-reversible acts that have haunted them for life. Therefore, the moral lesson from this story can be thinking before doing deeds that can haunt us for life and seek for other ways of mediation to solve our differences with people.
Baraban, Elena V. "The Motive for Murder in "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe." Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, vol. 58, no. 2, 2004, p. 47.
CWanamaker. "An Analysis of Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Cask of Amontillado." 12 June 2011
Waters. "The Color of Amontillado: The Influence of Blackface Minstrelsy in The Cask of Amontillado." The Edgar Allan Poe Review, vol. 19, no. 1, 2018, p. 39.
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