“The Cask of Amontillado”

The Cask of Amontillado

Critical Analysis of “The Cask of Amontillado

In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Edgar Allan Poe uses several different artistic choices in the construction of the story. He manipulates the story to be the way he wants it to be by using the point of view of the narrator, the setting, and a common monotonous sentiment throughout. Poe is successful in maintaining a “spirit of perverseness” that is prevalent in most of his works.

The point of view plays a very important role in influencing the reader’s perception of the story. The first line of the story is a good example of how the narrator attempts to bring the reader to his side right from the start. “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (231). Montresor, the narrator of the story, immediately tries to win the reader to his side by telling him that Fortunato has “ventured upon insult,” and apparently crossed over the line. This attempt is clever, but the reader never gets a sense of what Fortunato has actually done to the narrator. This fact alone raises the question in my mind as to whether Fortunato has really insulted Montresor, or whether Montresor is creating it in his own mind.

The point of view of the story can also affect the emotional attachment that the reader gets, or fails to get in this case, for a given character. In this story, Montresor dominates the progression of the story in every regard. In other words, the reader only knows what Montresor tells him, or what he can infer from the story. This being the case, it is difficult for the reader to develop any liking for another character unless Montresor describes him or him in a favorable way. Fortunato never stands a chance.

Montresor begins putting down Fortunato in the reader’s mind with the first line of the story, “when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (231).

As in most Poe stories, the narrator tries to steer the reader away from seeing the perverseness of his actions. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Montresor tries to convince the reader that walling up Fortunato is his way making himself “felt as such to him who has done the wrong” (231). In reality, Poe tells the story from Montresor’s point of view in order to increase the astonishment and perverseness that the reader feels when reading the story.

Edgar Allan Poe uses the setting in many different ways in his various works. There are two primary settings in “The Cask of Amontillado,” the carnival and the catacombs. There are several reasons that make the carnival the ideal setting for Poe to lure Fortunato away. “It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend” (231). This sentence contains two important details as to why the carnival is a perfect setting for Montresor’s undertakings.

The “excessive warmth,” that Fortunato greets Montresor with even further proves his intoxication and relaxed state.

Poe’s descriptive setting is an asset to the appeal of the story, particularly when the story proceeds to the catacombs. Descriptions such as this, are a very distinct characteristic of Poe stories, and are one of his greatest strengths.

His descriptions allow the reader to put themselves in the story and get the same feeling as the characters. The only difference in this case is that the reader has a better sense of Fortunato’s fate than he does.

Besides using it as appeal to continue reading a story, Poe also uses the setting in symbolic ways as well.

Instead, Poe has Fortunato remain intoxicated right up until the point where it is too late for him to struggle.

The immediate sobering-up of Fortunato when he is near death also adds to the effect of the scene.

This artistic choice is crucial to keeping the reader’s interest.

Another parallel between “The Cask of Amontillado” and other Poe short stories, is the basic layout of the story. First, the narrator starts off trying to justify or explain his actions. Second, the narrator tells the story, and finally there is always a twist or surprise at the end. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” this twist occurs when the narrator calls Fortunato and he doesn’t answer.

The is a certain uniqueness, though, that this story has that separates it from other Poe short stories. This uniqueness is, in my opinion, found at the end of the story. He is not in jail, and has seemingly served no time for his crime.

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