‘The cask of Amontillado’ is a horror story written by Edgar Allen Poe in 1845. Poe was born in 1805 and in his lifetime was well known for his poems, short fiction stories and literary criticism. ‘The cask of Amontillado’ is the story of a man called Montressor who seeks devilish revenge on a man called Fortunato. The story is set largely in the dark catacombs of Venice. Montressor uses these isolated surroundings as a place to murder his victim.
The title is relevant to the story because Montressor uses Fortunato’s fondness for Amontillado to coax him into following him down into the isolated catacombs. When really Fortunato would not be lead to any Amontillado or do anything of that sort, instead he would meet his death. After reading the introduction to the story ‘the cask of Amontillado,’ I felt unsettled by the atmosphere portrayed. The first person narration creates horror and suspense because you feel as if you are being drawn into Montressor’s world.
The reader is somewhat ashamed of being so gripped because of the evilness of the story. Initially I felt slightly sympathetic towards Montressor because you realise Fortunato had done something to Montressor first and it obviously had been quite nasty otherwise it wouldn’t have bothered Montressor so much-“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. ” This alone grasps the reader’s mind because you immediately wonder what Fortunato has done to make Montressor so desperate to carry out revenge.
However I didn’t feel sympathetic towards Montressor as I read on, he started to strike me as being very smug and sure of himself perhaps because of the way his plan, “precluded the idea of risk,” and he was going to not only,” punish but punish with impunity. ” This implies Montressor had planned his revenge down to the last detail and getting caught isn’t an issue. Throughout the story there are many places where there is a contrast between the cunning of the narrator and the naivety of the victim.
The fact that Montressor had planned the revenge so well makes him seem very cunning-he knows how he’s going to kill him, where he’s going to kill him and the exact sequence of events. All the way through the story apart from the burial Montressor is friendly to Fortunato to deceive him as he actually wants to kill him which is an example of irony. The writer uses irony to try and get Fortunato to come down to the catacombs with him. In a way this frustrates the reader because you know Montressor is being sarcastic but Fortunato is too gullable to notice.
Another technique Montressor uses to make sure the murder goes smoothly is reverse psychology; he gives his servants explicit orders not to move from the house when really he wants them to leave. We know that the revenge Montressor was planning was truly wicked because of the fact Montressor was determined not to suffer “retribution,” because if he was to be punished he wouldn’t really have got his revenge, as he would end up suffering also, if he happened to be caught. This makes the introduction very dramatic as you wonder how Montressor is going to
hurt Fortunato. One way Poe creates a sense of revulsion and suspense is by setting the story during the “supreme madness of the carnival season. ” This creates an alarming atmosphere because we realise that the party Fortunato went to was chaotic because of the vast number of peoples which disturbs the reader because of the aspect of claustraphobia and chaos. This keeps the readers attention and creates a disturbing mood because you become conscious of the fact that no one would notice if two people were to discreetly retreat from the chaotic carnival.
I think Montressor knows that Fortunato is an easy target at the carnival because he might well be drunk so he would willingly come down to the catacombs. This is another way the narrator is cunning. The choice of words and phrases Poe uses to describe the carnival such as “supreme madness” relates to the way Montressor acts and how he murders Fortunato, because you would need to be mad or evil to torture someone in a horrific way and not feel in the slightest bit guilty.