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The Cask of Amontillado
Transcript of The Cask of Amontillado
By Edgar Allen Poe
Created by Valeria Ortiz
Key Words & Phrases
In the Cask of Amontillado, Poe uses language to create a sense of intrigue and an enticing character. The hatred that Montresore harbors towards Fortunato is expressed through such eloquent words that the reader can sense how serious he is on exacting his revenge. The language also goes a long way proving the credibility of the narrator. It is the strong emotions that help discredit his view. For all we know Fortunato could have sneezed on him and made Montresore really mad. Also the fact that he was drunk also doesn't help his case.
Connection to Themes
The obvious theme to this story is revenge.The main character has suffered some insult and now wants to make Fortunato suffer. The vivid words help establish the direction of the plot, "
I must not only punish but punish with impunity
" as well as the mood, "
We had passed thrugh the long walls of piled skeletons...into the inmost recesses of the catacomb
". Another one of the themes, Mortality, is expressed directly thorugh the cough that Fortunato develops while the night progresses. "
I shall not die of a cough
Irony is one of the most used literary devices in the whole story. The very name of the character Fortunato, which means luck,is ironic since the character does not have the much luck in the story. The quote, "
it was about dusk, one evening, during the supreme madness of the carnival season
..." suggest that the story eill be full of laughter and joy. Instead by making the beginning set in a happy place Poe has put into play irony. Of course the carnival is a lso a place of insanity which alos might refelct on the mental states of the characters.
In this story everything from the clothing to the setting seems to have a different meaning to it. The jester's outfit that Fortunato is wearing could have been only the narrator's perception, which is that of a complete fool. The Montresor's have a motto which goes, "
Nemo me impune lacessit
" which when translated means nobody harms me without being punished. If that isn't a clear enough symbol I don't know what is. The amontillado itself is also symbolism. It is the "fish bait" if you will that is used to lure Forunato into the catacombs. The Cask, a cylindrical barrel, sounds a lot like "casket" which unites what he loves the most, the wine, to his impending death.
Edgar Allen Poe uses a lot of foreshadowing in order to build the suspense in the story. The quote, " I shall not die of a cough" spoken by Forunato employs both irony and foreshadowing, as he does die at the end of the tale. The family crest also hints at a shadowy doom in the future. In the image the foot is Montresor and the serpent is Fortunato, as the foot is crushing the serpent. Another example is the DeGrave, the wine that Montresor gives to Fortunato an obvious foreshadowing that the cellar is shortly to become "the grave" of Fortunato.
Haste me to know, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.
If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?
-The Merchant of Venice
The words that Poe uses are all specifically chosen to convey a sense of foreboding and one of anger. These words help the reader understand from the beginning that this is a story where vengeance will be served. Indeed the first sentence of the story is, "
The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge
". Words like "impunity" and "immolation" reflect back on theme and the motives of the character, which is of retribution.
Revenge is sweet and not fattening
“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
“Revenge proves its own executioner.”
― John Ford, The Broken Heart
Is the character insane or just drunk?
For him to have gone out and killed Fortunato it had to have been something really bad. However, since the author never introduces the motive for revenge the readers are left to draw their own conclusions with the clues and evidence in the story. Does Montresor really have a genuine reason for killing Fortunato or is he just crazy?
Revenge in Greek Mythology
In Greek mythology Earth and Sky created the Titans who in turn created the 12 original Greek gods and goddesses. However for fear the his children would soon mutiny against their father the Titan father, Cronus, swallowed his children in order to prevent that from happening. However Rhea, Cronus's wife and the mother of his children hid her last born child, Zeus, from Cronus. Once Zeus grew up he tricked his father into throwing his children back up. Reunited the siblings vowed to take revenge on their father. The ensuing battle was called the Titanomachy, which lasted for 10 years. Finally with help of some of his other minor brothers (the Hundred Handers, two headed monsters with a hundred hands). The defeated Titans were hauled down to Tartarus and imprisoned there, and the Hundred-Handers became their jailors.
Poe, what inspiration did you have in regards to writing this story? Did something happen that made you write this story? I'm curious.
How would the story change if there was no Amontillado?
Well personally I loved the story. It was great (I'm the type of person that likes those types of horror stories). All of the literary elements Edgar Allen Poe used were really successful in bringing the suspense in the story. The first time that I read it I was confused especially because of the language of the time period but now that I've read it more than one time I undestand and now enjoy the story. I love reading about the secret meanings because to me its beautiful that something can be hidden under the normal facade of simple words.
When Poe wrote this story he was in the middle of a feud with fellow writer Thomas Dunn English. He wrote the Cask of Amontillado as a sort of retaliation towards English's mocking story 1844, where he has a character that represents Poe. This spoof of Poe is a liar and a drunkard. However the Cask of Amontillado closely represents 1844, but it was Poe who got the last laugh because his was immensely more popular. Also at the time it was rumored that Poe had made a deal with the Washingtonian movement, an organization whose sole purpose was to prevent alcoholism. They contracted Poe to write a "dark temperance tale", meant to shock people into realizing the dangers of drinking.
In conclusion, Edgar Allen Poe's story the Cask of Amontillado uses literary themes like revenge and literary devices like foreshadowing. His use of language built the suspense and hooked the readers in so that they were forced to finish the book all the way to its climatic end. Poe's story was full of mystery and hindden meaning that kept you guessing until the very end. It was a very scintillating read full of literary and emotional twists and turns.