Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Critique of “The Cask of Amontillado”

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“The Cask of Amontillado” is an obvious choice for the anthology after reading it. It contains many literary elements within its few pages. The elements that I particularly enjoyed were the tone, symbolism, and irony.

The plot of the story is integrated. It is a straight and to the point story about a man who vows, plots, and carries out plan of ultimate revenge on another man who he considers a friend. There are two characters in the story. The protagonist, Montresor, and the antagonist, Fortunato. Montresor has apparently been insulted by Fortunato and has decided that this insult cannot go unpunished according to his family crest nemo me impune lacessit (no one wounds me with impunity). Montresor devises a plan that allows him to lure Fortunato, with a cask of Amontillado, into the catacombs beneath his house and wall him up in a niche.

The setting of the story is an evening during carnival season in unnamed city, possibly in Italy. The story is told from the first person point of view by Montresor. The tone seemed self-righteous and I imagined the voice to be haughty and matter of fact. I considered Montresor to be an unreliable narrator due to the fact that he is trying to justify pre-meditated murder to the reader and exaggerates. “The thousand injuries of Fortunato…” seems a bit extreme but necessary when trying to convince the reader of his intentions.

The symbolism in this story is outstanding. Montresor’s family crest is a good example. Montresor is telling the story as if he were the foot stomping on a snake that had bitten him, while I saw him as the snake that is biting the foot that has stepped on him. Other aspects of the story that appealed to me were the suspense of the horror style, and the imagery in the catacombs. I could imagine the whole atmosphere. The irony, both dramatic and verbal, really appealed to my sarcastic side. Poe uses dramatic irony in Fortunato’s name and costume. He was not very fortunate and is made a complete fool for not seeing the obvious signs that Montresor shows him of his fate. There are numerous places that Poe uses verbal irony. Montresor expresses concern for Fortunato’s health several times. Fortunato says, “…I shall not die of a cough” and Montresor replies, “True � true…” knowing how he will die. Another example is when Fortunato asks if Montresor is a Mason and he says yes. When Fortunato asks for a secret sign, Montresor produces the trowel.

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There didn’t seem to be an exact theme in the story. The story gives an overall message that revenge is not something that should be sought. Montresor did not learn anything in the story, but the reader should see that revenge is a reaction not a justified action. Revenge is biting a foot that steps on you, not stepping on the snake that bites you.

Poe, Edgar Allen. “The Cask of Amontillado.” 1846. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Sixth Edition. Michael Myer. Boston Bedford/St. Martin’s, 00. 46-467.

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