The Cask Of Amontillado

A Study Of Montresor The Narrator In Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Story The Cask Of Amontillado

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

“The Cask of Amontillado” is a short story written by Edgar Allen Poe, and unlike most stories, the narrator may or may not be reliable with the facts that he presents. The story is about the narrator, Montresor, who vengefully deceives his “poor friend” (Poe 109) Fortunato into following him to his own death. As the narrator, Montresor, recites the story, you can see the swing in his mental state from vengeful to the complete opposite feeling of pity. There are many reasons as to why Montresor would be considered an unreliable narrator, but there are also a few as to why he would be considered reliable. This paper is going to explain the reasons behind why Montresor could be stated as both, and the reasons behind why Montresor wanted revenge. We will begin by looking at what the critics have to say about the story, and then move onto what I have to say about the story.

As stated before, some critics say that Montresor is a reliable narrator in the information he is offering to the reader, while others say that he is completely unreliable in the information given. I personally agree with both sides of the critics. I believe that Montresor could be considered both a reliable and an unreliable narrator. Through out this paper, we are going to look into the reasons why the critics believe that Montresor is a reliable narrator and why he is considered an unreliable narrator. We are also going to look at my personal reasons as to why I think he is both reliable and unreliable.

To begin, we will look at the reasons as to why critics think that he is a reliable narrator. One critic suggests that everything that Montresor says is “best taken literally, for if they are, other details fall into place” (St. John Stott, Graham). So this critics argument is to just trust Montresor in his descriptions as to what is going on based purely on the fact that it makes the story easier to understand if you aren’t second guessing everything that is being described to you. That is the only information that I could find on why to trust Montresor as a narrator, but now to talk about why critics and I consider him unreliable.

Now, Montresor is described as an unreliable narrator for a few main reasons. The main one is that Montresor is a murderer, and it’s hard to trust someone who kills people especially when his only reason to kill Fortunato is that “he ventured upon insult” (Poe 107). Also, when Montresor is telling the story, it’s difficult to tell whether the events happening are in a chronological timely order with one event happening right after the other. For example, he states that his “poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes” (Poe 109). That fact that he says that he didn’t reply for minutes could have meant that he didn’t reply for an hour for all we know as an audience. Another thing is that Montresor seems to leave out evidence. Even from the quote above there is a lack of evidence as to why he found it impossible to respond. All he says is that he had a cough, but he doesn’t ever explain where it came from.

This brings us to why Montresor could be considered a reliable narrator. As Fortunato was coughing, Montresor asks if he would like to return to the party that they came from multiple times, but Fortunato refuses saying “I will not die of a cough” and Montresor responds saying, “True” (Poe 109). At this time, Montresor is being reliable and doing a little foreshadowing because he knows that Fortunato will not die of a cough, instead he is going to die of hunger and thirst because Montresor set it up that way. Another time that Montresor seems reliable is when he is locking Fortunato up. Fortunato cries out to Montresor “for the love of god, Montresor, have pity on me!” and Montresor, now that his pent-up fury is dissipating, actually does feel pity” (Delaney 39). The fact that Montresor feels pity makes him seem like he actually has human feelings again, and it gives the reader an idea that maybe he isn’t all that bad.

Now we will move onto what some critics’ opinions are as to why Montresor wanted revenge on Fortunado. One critic states that “As Montresor himself remarks, Fortunado is the golden boy, ‘rich, respected, admired, beloved, ….happy….’”(Gruesser). Montresor, unfortunately, was not so lucky. He states that he once was, but “he has lost his status or contentment. To someone who is unfortunate, like Montresor, Fortunato’s happiness is a daily injury” (Gruesser). So because of that, Montresor feels the need to create a master plan to bring justice to Fortunato. All critics agree that it was an act of revenge. Personally, I think that it was definitely an act of revenge, but without good reason. If Montresor does give a real solid reason, Poe hides it very well in his writing. I think that Montresor was just jealous judging by what Gruesser’s opinion was on the situation. There must be more of a reason though.

One critic suggests that “He has his reasons for what he does, and these are reasons that we should be able to understand. There lies a deeper horror in the story” (White). This critic suggests that there must be a good enough reason for what he did so that he can feel justified after doing what needed to be done in Montresor’s mind. “Montresor is so convinced of his right in carrying out his plan of vengeance that he can speak of the killing of Fortunato as an ‘immolation’ (1257). We need not go so far as to see him assuming the role of a priest performing the ritual killing of a sacrificial victim, as some commentators on the story have done; but we should be able to understand that, given his family imperatives, he might well be able to see himself as a person carrying out a quasi-sacred duty” (White). I agree that there must have been some kind of reason behind why Montresor felt the need to carry out the duty, but I also believe that Montresor could very well have just been crazy.

This brings us to our next topic. Some critics suggest that Montresor was on a “demented or Satanic pursuit of revenge” (White). After going through many articles, I have seen a pattern in a religious aspect to the story saying that Montresor was satanic, but one critic stated, “Montresor has unwittingly reenacted the crucifixion” (Gruesser). A big reason as to why people have brought religion into the picture is because of one line in the story, which is when Fortunado cries out to Montresor to stop what he is doing he says “For the love of God Montresor.” “Fortunado’s cry is both a plea for mercy and a warning to Montresor to remember his own end and think of the afterlife” (Gruesser). According to Gruesser, when Montresor responded saying “Yes. . . for the love of God!” He was making a point to go against god, “damning himself for all time” (Gruesser). Other critics suggest that Montresor was just mentally ill.

This brings us to the next point in the story, which is when Montresor begins to feel pity for the man he is murdering. Montresor gives Fortunado many opportunities to save himself. This makes the reader think that there may be a chance that Montresor doesn’t necessarily want to completely go through with the murder, but he keeps on making ironic comments that are foreshadowing for what is going to happen. “Once he has punished Fortunato to his satisfaction, he can now feel sorry for his victim. Fortunado’s plea is only half-stated: the other half is implied. He means, in effect, ‘For the love of God Montresor, have pity on me!’ and Montresor, now that his pent up fury is dissipating actually does feel pity” (Delaney).

That situation is completely odd to me because the story is being told 50 years down the line. I thought that since Montresor was feeling sorry for Fortunado, he would regret what he had done in that moment, but he shows no remorse in that aspect. I think that Poe is just showing that Montresor has normal human feelings just like everyone else, but he still doesn’t regret what he has done because Montresor can’t let Fortunado escape from “the thousands of injuries” he has already inflicted on him.

The next topic this paper is going to look into is all of the irony and foreshadowing in the story. We will start by looking at the tile of “The Cask of Amontillado.” The word “cask” means wine barrel, but it is the root for the word casket which means a coffin. So you could argue that it is somewhat ironic that the word “cask” in the title was meant to figuratively represent Fortunado’s casket. Something else that is ironic is Fortunado’s name it self. When you say Fortunado, you can easily see that the word “fortune” is inside of it. This is extremely ironic because when you think of fortune, you think of good luck, but Fortunado has absolutely anything but good luck. He is being led to his own death and there is nothing that he suspects at all.

Another example of symbolic irony is the way that Fortunado is dressed. He is wearing a jester’s costume. This is extremely ironic because he is fooled into being following Montresor to his own death. Montresor gives him a lot of opportunities to turn back and foolishly, Fortunado denies each and every one of his opportunities to escape. It’s somewhat comical that he keeps denying the opportunities because as a reader you can see that Montresor is obviously up to something, but Fortunado is just so blinded to it. Another example of irony is when Fortunado asks Montresor if he is a mason, and Montresor responds saying he is a mason, but Fortunado meant the question asking if he was a part of the Freemasons. When Montresor responded, he did not mean that he was a part of the Freemasons, but instead he meant that he was a craftsman that builds with stone. This is ironic because Montresor will be building Fortunado’s tomb made out of stone.

Poe also uses a lot of irony within the dialogue between Montresor and Fortunado. For example, the first time Montresor talks to Fortunado he says, “My dear Fortunado, you are luckily met.” This is ironic because he is not luckily met at all. He is more like unluckily met. Another example is when Montresor and Fortunado are in the tunnel going to where Montresor is going to cave him in. Fortunado begins to cough for a reason that is not explained, but Montresor responds to this stating that “We will go back, your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; You are happy, as I once was. You are a man to be missed.” That is obviously a load of crap that he is saying that, but Fortunado responds saying that “The cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I will not die of a cough.” And to that Montresor responds saying “true,” because Fortunado is right. He will not die of a cough, but he will die of something much worse.

Now it is time to recap. This paper began by talking about whether Montresor was a reliable narrator or not. In the end, I have to agree with St. John Stott and Graham when they said the story is “best taken literally, for if they are, other details fall into place” (St. John Stott, Graham). If the story is not told in real time and if you can’t trust the narrator, then the whole story is a bust because it is impossible to know what is actual true and what isn’t. That ruins the whole point of reading a story if you can’t trust anything that you are reading, or if you have to over analyze every spec of the story to find out what is going on. It just takes a lot away from the story, so I think it’s best to just trust what the narrator is stating and move on from there. Even though there are many reasons why Montresor could be considered unreliable, it is better trust what he is stating as he is stating it because it just makes the reading much easier.

Next, this paper began talking about reasons to why Montresor killed Fortunado. As one critic suggested, “He has his reasons for what he does, and these are reasons that we should be able to understand. There lies a deeper horror in the story” (White). I must agree with this critic because nobody does something for no reason. It just depends on what Fortunado did that made him want revenge so bad to make a master plan to take him out and actually go through with it. The only reason Montresor gives you for killing Fortunato is that “he ventured upon insult” (Poe 107). After researching and finding other critics opinions as to why he did what he did, the only reasonable reason is jealousy. “As Montresor himself remarks, Fortunado is the golden boy, ‘rich, respected, admired, beloved, ….happy….’”(Gruesser). That is what made me think that. Montresor goes onto say that he was not so lucky. This makes me think that the main reason that Montresor went through with it is because Fortunado’s happiness was such a bother to him. His jealousy must have driven him enough to go through with killing a man who probably has never really done him much harm. Also, he very well may have been in an ill mental state because anybody in his or her right would not have done such a horrid task.

After reading through The Cask of Amontillado, I believed everything that the narrator was saying right away, but after thinking about it for a while, my thoughts changed. The reason why is because the narrator seems to be unreliable, at least in most cases. The first time reading the story, I thought that all of the events happening were one after the other with little time in between, but after thinking about it, my mind changed. It seems as if there could have been long periods of time between the events happening. For example Montresor says that his “poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes” (Poe 109). This could have meant any amount of time, and who knows what the narrator did to him to make him that way. Another reason is just based purely on the fact that he is a murderer. It makes it hard to trust that he is telling the complete truth. The last reason I think that he is unreliable is because he never gives a real reason for even killing Fortunado. He just says that he has “ventured upon insult” (Poe 107), but that could mean anything.

After researching “The Cask of Amontillado,” I realized that I had missed a lot of important details within the story. The details changed my opinions drastically on what was going on. Especially with a reason as to why Montresor would do something so horrid. I really liked when the one thing that the critic stated which was that “As Montresor himself remarks, Fortunado is the golden boy, ‘rich, respected, admired, beloved, ….happy….’”(Gruesser). This meant that Montresor must have been jealous. When you read you can see the hatred, but it seems to be for no reason. After hearing this idea, and reading through the story again, it makes much more sense. White stated that there must be a reason as to why he did it, and the reason must’ve been relatable to a normal person, and that is the most horrid part. I think the reason why that must be the most horrid part is because if it is relatable to most everybody, then that means we all have the potential to do such a bad thing over the feeing of jealousy and anger. So anybody who experiences jealousy and anger can relate to the feeling and the satisfaction of revenge. That is actual kind of a scary thought that Poe may have been trying to bring out of the reader. Suggesting that anybody can relate to such an act of vengeance, but feel pity at the same time when you realize that maybe it wasn’t worth it.

In conclusion, what others say compared to what I say is fairly closely related. I’ve come to the conclusion to trust Montresor in what he is saying. Also, I have come to the conclusion that Montresor may have been just a normal guy who was just experiencing very strong jealousy, and this makes it scary that anybody can potentially relate. Poe uses awesome irony and foreshadowing, and some comical gestures that make the story very interesting.

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Montresor’s Mental Illness as Highlighted in Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Story the Cask of Amontillado,

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.” This is the line that opens up Edgar Allen Poe’s “short story”, The Cask of Amontillado. It shows the audience what the story is about, which is a conflict between the two main characters Montresor and Fortunato. Edgar Allen Poe does not tell us exactly what happened between Fortunato and Montresor to make Montresor want revenge, but we could make the infer that it was something pretty bad. We also don’t know what Montresor means when he says that he wants revenge. We’d soon find out later in the story that Montresor’s revenge meants that he would capture Fortunato and lock him in a catacomb so he could not escape and then murdering his old friend. Why would Montresor do such a thing? What caused Montresor to just snap and murder his friend Fortunato? I believe that Montresor must’ve had some sort of mental illness that would push him to the point of murder.

The first mental illness that comes to mind when thinking of people who have murdered is schizophrenia. The definition of schizophrenia according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “A very serious mental illness in which someone cannot think or behave normally and often experiences delusions.” Many infamous serial killers over the years, such as Ed Gein, Richard Chase and David Gonzalez. Some of the major symptoms of schizophrenia are disorganized and compulsive behavior, aggression and anger, anxiety, paranoia and the belief that an ordinary event has special and personal meaning. It is shown that Montresor has multiple of these symptoms in the story, especially aggression and the belief that an ordinary even has a personal meaning. This could mean that Fortunato did something small to anger Montresor, and since he possibly has schizophrenia, that could have led Montresor to believe that murdering Fortunato was the only valid option. People who suffer from schizophrenia are known to harm and murder other people, so suggesting that Montresor is suffering from such an illness is completely valid.

Another possible illness that Montresor could possibly be suffering from is bipolar disorder. According to WebMD, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that brings severe high and low mood swings and produces changes in sleeping patterns, energy, thinking and behavior. Those last two could go hand in hand with Montresor, as his behavior and thinking in this story is horrendous. The following quote is thought of by Montresor in the story. “I continued, as was my in to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my to smile now was at the thought of his immolation” (Poe). This shows how Montresor was thinking that night. He was thinking of Fortunato’s death while smiling and talking to the man. This can easily be signs of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

The final possible illness that Montresor could have is antisocial personality disorder, also knowns as APD. Antisocial personality disorder is a mental illness that is best known for being the reason most serial killers do what they do. Infamous serial killers such as Ted Bundy and Robert Black both had APD. The definition of antisocial personality disorder, according to MedlinePlus, is “A mental condition which a person has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others.” This definition perfectly describes Montresor. His behavior can be described as criminal behavior, as he perfectly plans his plots to murder Fortunato. Montresor has devilish behavior in The Cask of Amontillado. Montresor could most certainly contain the mental illness of antisocial personality disorder, as he matches all of the symptoms of the illness.

In conclusion, the character of Montresor in the “short story” The Cask of Amontillado may very well have the mental illnesses of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or antisocial personality disorder. He murders his old friend Fortunato all over something presumably small that happened between the two. His devilish behavior in the story as he lures his friend into the underground catacombs and brutally murders him is scary to imagine happening. It seems that everything Montresor does in this story is something only a serial killer with a serious mental illness can even consider doing. Edgar Allen Poe developed this maniacal character so well in The Cask of Amontillado. You can just tell by reading the first few paragraphs that Montresor is evil, especially when murdering his old ‘friend’ Fortunato comes into play.

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Montresor’s Revenge In Edgar Allan Poe Short Story The Cask Of Amontillado

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Cask of Amontillado

In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Cask of Amontillado, the story follows a dark and twisted storyline of revenge for the narrator, Montresor. The story is carefully crafted so that every detail contributes to a certain, unique effect. We are forced to only see the story from Montresor’s revengeful point of view thus intensifying the effect of moral shock and horror. Poe forces the reader to look into the inner motives and what drives the actions of a murderer’s mind. Montresor only seeks one thing out of the whole storyline, that is revenge. It drives the actions of Montresor and it is the only thing he cares about. He is beyond the point of reasoning but also it is impossible for anyone else to help figure out an alternate ending simply because Montresor does not allow anyone other than the reader to know about his thoughts. The moral compass is then left to the reader because Montresor does not possess one. The main character’s attitude towards Fortunato is only revealed to the reader as it is almost impossible to follow the narrator’s actions and dialogue within the story to explain his motive. The usage of dramatic and verbal irony contribute to the reader’s knowledge of being the only one aware of the narrator’s hidden agenda. His motive only becomes clear to the audience and the characters at the end of the story.

In the beginning of The Cask of Amontillado, the narrator begins with his direct feelings towards Fortunato. Explaining how Fortunato insulted his name and he “would make him pay for this.” In a twisted way to support his family motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit” meaning “no one assails me with impunity”. If we look at The Cask of Amontillado: A Case for Defense it points out that “a particular detail in the motto is worth noting is that it speaks not of “us” but of me.” Which if the reader thinks closely if Montresor was attempting to protect his family name the revenge he is seeking wouldn’t seem so personal. Looking closely at the family armor we see there is a foot with a serpent wrapped around it with it’s fangs sunk into it. Analytically the reader can relate the armor to the way Montresor feels about Fortunato, he might feel as if Fortunato is the serpent who has insulted and deceived him enough and he must get rid of the problem. On the other hand, Fortunato could easily be the serpent also, sinking his fangs into the Achilles’ heel of Fortunato. We also note that Poe has no intentions for making the reader sympathize with Montresor because he has been wronged by Fortunato. But rather Poe seeks to evoke judgement towards Montresor. The reader is only aware of the insults on his name, not the other things Fortunato might’ve done. Thus making the reader aware that Montresor is an unreliable narrator, he also seems to be a the narrator tends to hold grudges and exaggerate a little more than usual. Even though the narrator has clear motives, he still acts rather impulsively. Montresor does not seem to be fully aware the true consequences of his actions, and not strictly the physical consequences. This reflects a possible insight into the way many people might have thought during that time period. Montresor then continues to explain that “I must not suffer as a result of my revenge. A wrong is not made right in that matter.” Thus his motive is now clear, but only to the reader. The usage of dramatic irony becomes effective as the reader is now forced to be an accomplice in the revengeful death of Fortunato. No one else is involved in Montresor’s elaborate plan for revenge. His mind was set on the murder of Fortunato that no one could convince him otherwise. The Cask of Amontillado: A Case for the Defense points out that “we may still ask how he can relish his retaliation and why he need inflict the unnecessary cruelty of death” which is a valid point. It is vital to address what drove Montresor to want to kill Fortunato other than the insults it’s unclear if there might be a second motive or if Montresor is just a psychopathic murderer. The setting of the story is Italy during a time of celebration. The carnival that is taking place gives Montresor the opportunity to appear in disguise and to lure his companion, Fortunato, away from the celebration of life. Ironically, as the carnival celebrates life and happiness Fortunato is aware of his death that is to follow that night.

When Fortunato and Montresor finally meet later night has fallen and it also creates an airy and dark feeling that the reader is connecting to the death of Fortunato. We also are informed that if Fortunato wasn’t aware of Montresor’s feelings towards him because Montresor completely masked his true feelings about Fortunato. Here Poe uses verbal irony within the dialogue between Montresor and Fortunato, making the reader aware of the deceit that is taking place. Also we see the narrator using the trust Fortunato had placed in him to complete his vengeful task. Montresor uses Fortunato’s love for wine to lure him away from the safety of his grasp. Fortunato prided himself on being a connoisseur of fine wine. Using his knowledge of wines he uses it against Montresor to complete his revenge. In a sense, Montresor located Fortunato’s Achilles’ heel, his weakness. Making Montresor as deceitful as the serpent wrapped around the foot in his family armor. He was aware that if Fortunato was too drunk to be coherent with the environment around him making his plan easier to execute. As we follow the storyline the usage of dialogue between the two characters is friendly, if the reader wasn’t already aware of the feelings of Montresor and his current motive than it would be impossible to explain why Fortunato is led to his death. According to The Ironic Double in Poe’s Cask of Amontillado “Fortunato is broadly drawn as a character entirely befitting his carnival motley and clownish bells. He appears as the open, gullible extrovert, an innocent possessed of that same ignorant vanity that caused the original fall from grace.” Meaning that Fortunato’s appearance as a fool only emphasizing how the reader actually see him because of his obvious mindset. He seems to be completely unaware that his death is soon to follow. Making him an even bigger fool to the reader. We also see that Fortunato’s trust was placed in the wrong place rather. Fortunato trust Montresor enough to drink past his own personal limits because the assumption is made that Montresor will take care of him.

After the characters exchange words over the cask of Amontillado, the narrator then leads Fortunato to the catacombs where it is kept. The setting then is switched from an open, free area to a confined, closed space as the move farther and farther away from freedom. We can see as the story progresses Montresor’s façade he has on display as he continuously gives Fortunato more and more wine. The most ironic thing about the dialogue is that many times Fortunato takes a drink for the dead while Montresor drinks to the hopes of Fortunato’s long life. Ironically the narrator and the reader are both aware that Fortunato is not going to be alive for much longer. As the foreshadowing of the bones throughout the catacombs is an indirect explanation of what is soon going to be Fortunato’s fate. Again only the reader picks up on the airy feeling of death as the character is totally obvious to his fate. Edgar Allan Poe plays on the fear of being buried alive to make the scene leading up to the death of Montresor exceedingly long and draw out on purpose. Thus pulling the feeling of fear out of the reader’s mind. As Montresor locks Fortunato into the wall he offers Fortunato another opportunity to leave. Montresor and the reader are now fully aware of what is about to come of Fortunato. Fortunato although is too drunk to realize he is about to have his fate sealed. We follow the steps Montresor follows in order to begin the slow and painful death of Fortunato. This makes the story more interesting and creates even more suspense as the motive is very clear now. As Montresor begins to lay the stones into place we see that Fortunato is becoming aware that he is trapped. He pulls and shakes at the chains while Montresor continues to plaster the stones together. Fortunato cries out that “this is a very good joke.” He still seems unaware that Montresor is no longer is friend and he is about to be left for death. Montresor continues to ploy with the idea of drinking the Amontillado, the same reason they were down there to begin with. The dialogue almost no longer feels friendly and it now has a dark feeling to it. Fortunato cried out one more time to Montresor, aware that Montresor might no longer be his friend and the motive of his death is now clear to everyone.

Although the narrator is now free from Fortunato and his revenge has been fulfilled you can tell that he feels trapped mentally with Fortunato because he felt compelled to tell the story about Fortunato’s death. His mind is trapped within the catacombs with Fortunato. The reader is then left to analyze whether or not Montresor might feel some form of guilt. His motive and actions only were available to the reader thus making the reader an accessory to his mind. We also are forced to acknowledge both the death of Fortunato and the mental and moral death of Montresor. Committing the act of murder emphasizing the corrupt nature that is the mind of Montresor. The Cask of Amontillado allows the reader to envision such a gruesome death. Poe’s story coincides with a historical period in which attempts were made both to protect individuals from premature burial and society from judicial acts of public torture that were formerly sanctioned as rites of purification. (Platizky2) It triggers the human desire about the unknown and the curiosity of being buried alive. Poe draws out the death making it long and painful process, playing on the concept that a short and quick death is much better than a long and painful death that Fortunato experienced.

Although Montresor does indeed murder Fortunato, he never really makes clear to him why he is doing it. Moreover, the fact that fifty years later he confesses his crime, perhaps to a priest, might mean that he has been punished by guilt all this time. The question left in the reader’s mind is: If Montresor is represented by the foot crushing out the life of the serpent Fortunato, then are the fangs of Fortunato still embedded in Montresor’s heel? If so, it might be said that Fortunato fulfills Montresor’s criteria for revenge more perfectly than Montresor himself does.

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The Theme of Revenge in The Cask of Amontillado and The Count of Monte Cristo

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

“The Cask of Amontillado” and The Count of Monte Cristo both have various ways to show how the theme of revenge is betrayed in the text. In the short story “The Cask of Amontillado”, Poe starts off by showing us how our protagonist, Montressor acts post betrayal. In the book The Count of Monte Cristo, we are shown how our protagonist, Edmond Dantes acts pre and post betrayal. Theme “the insight into what it is to be human” is revealed as revenge in both texts. Both texts show how their “characterization influenced the theme of revenge” The theme of revenge is shown to us by their own characterization, the people around them, and what leads them up to their own actions.

In the short story “The Cask of Amontillado” we are shown that our protagonist Montressor is being betrayed by Fortunado yet we do not know what exactly Fortunado has done in order for Montressor to feel betrayed. “The thousand injuries of Fortunado I had borne as best I could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.” (Poe 172) This implies that when Fortunado insulted Montressor, he pushed it too far which drove him to get revenge. We are not shown how Montressor acted before the betrayal yet we do know that when Montressor is talking to Fortunado he states “You are rich, respected, admired, beloved, you are happy, as once i was” (Poe 173) which implies before he was betrayed Montressor wasn’t just a cold hearted and vengeful person but Montesor was very warm hearted and a sensitive person. Montressor was pushed too far which caused him to get revenge and wall up Fortunado alive.

However in the book The Count of Monte Cristo we are shown when Edmond gets betrayed by his own “best friend” Fernand and is put into jail called the Chateau D’if, it gives us a way to see how his characterization changes before he was put in jail and after he escapes. In the film that we were shown of The Count of Monte Cristo we see how before Edmond was arrested, he was very worried, naive, and gullible. The way he acted before he was put in jail let people really take advantage of him which really caused him to be clueless of what was going on around him. However, this all changes when he gets educated by Abbé Faria who teaches Edmond everything he knows. When Edmond escapes he meets Luigi Vampa known as a smuggler and a thief. Luigi challenges Edmond to fight Jacapo to the death but when fighting but Edmond doesn’t actually kill him because everyone got what they wanted which was a show. Jacapo ends up giving Edmond his life oath. Edmond and Jacapo find the treasure of Monte Cristo and when Jacapo ask Edmond what he wants to buy, he states he wants to buy “revenge”. Edmond and Jacapo for about 16 years, have been studying Fernand and Mercedes his old fiance who ended up marrying Fernand 1 month after he was arrested. Edmond comes up with a plan and stages a fight of the capturing of Fernands son Albert which causes Edmond to meet his parents. When Edmond meets his parents, Mercedes recognizes something about him and says he seems familiar like her old love Edmond, but he is introduced as the Count of Monte Cristo, so how could it be him ? Fernand ends up being arrested for bankruptcy which he then tells Mercedes but she refuses to move with him. Fernand looks for the money that he planned to steal but ends up seeing the Count of Monte Cristo who is then revealed as Edmond which causes them to sword fight to the death. Edmond defeats Fernand who then moves on to live with Mercedes and Albert.

In the short story “The Cask of Amontillado” Montressors characterization changes which drives the theme of revenge when he states that he was once happy which we can imply that he was a giving and trusting person which when he got betrayed he turned very cautious and malicious. With his characterization change, we could imply that whatever Fortunado did to betray Montressor, it caused him to get revenge and wall up Fortunado. In the book The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond is first portrayed as a very gullible person which he then changes to a very confident person which allows him to come up with a very intelligent plan for more than 16 years to study Fernands and Mercedes every move.

In both texts we can see how the people around them can change their characterization which causes them to do things we wouldn’t expect. Both text not only show how peoples characterization can change the theme of the story, but their characterization changes them as a person. Revenge is something everyone wants at one point but peoples characterization can either influence them to get revenge or not. The short story “The Cask of Amontillado” and the book The Count of Monte Cristo both show us how both Montressor and Edmonds characterization influences the theme of revenge

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A Heartless Murderer in a Novel The Cask of Amontillado

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

In Edgar Allan Poe’s story, ”The Cask of Amontillado,” the narrator, Montresor, lures down his archenemy, the wine connoisseur Fortunato, into the catacombs under his palazzo to taste a wine called ’Amontillado,’. As the story continues, the very deceptive Montresor buries his former friend, Fortunato, alive deep down in the dark catacombs, with the parting words ”In pace requiescat!” (19) What Poe’s readers have been conflicted about since the story’s very first days, is whether the main character tells us the story out of guilt or not.

Many who read Poe’s short story have the perception that it takes place on a death bed and Montresor’s words are being confessed to a priest, a friend, or a family member. They believe that he could not keep this huge secret to himself anymore due to guilt. However, there are more than one way to interpret the fiction story. Instead of indicating that the very first phase of the story is a confession on Montresor’s death bed, maybe he was gloating on what he had done. Montresor is might be darker than most people realize, just consider the very first sentence: ”The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.” (14) Not only does Montresor confess the murder, he is also trying to convince whoever is listening that he had been insulted so badly that it had to be rectified. Perhaps like he is trying to convince the listener that what he did was righteous, that his actions were justified. Montresor telling this unknown person about the murder so many years ago might be an attempt to find someone who understands him, someone who will know the whole story, and who will carry it on after his death. In fact, he is not feeling any guilt at all, he is feeling alone, he wants someone to share the story with and to share his achievement with. Perhaps what he regrets the most is the lack of recognition for his ’heroic’ actions.

Another phase in the story that might be interpreted as regret, or at the time, misgivings, is when Montresor is constantly repeating to Fortunato that he wants them to return to the festival, saying that he is concerned about Fortunato’s health. However, Poe always adds that little detail about Luchesi and how he could come down and help Montresor taste the wine instead. This eliminates all doubts about Montresor changing his mind on the way down to the catacombs, or feeling even a little remorse or unease about what he is about to do. ”’Come’ I said, with decision: ’we will go back, your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi—’” (16)

In the last phase of the story, Montresor calls for Fortunato through the remaining aperture but he does not get a reply. That seems to make Montresor impatient and upset. He wants to hear Fortunato begging for mercy, so that he may feel superior and sweeten the taste of revenge. Maybe the plan all along is to make Fortunato afraid, to make him fear and respect Montresor. After all, that is what he loses to Fortunato, his respect when he is insulted so badly that Montresor sees death as a fit punishment: when he finally has Fortunato’s life in his hands, it is almost as if he gets upset about the lack of action. He wanted Fortunato to fight for his life, to show some emotions, some zest of life. But all he gets in the end from Fortunato is silence, no respect, only silence. ”But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud: ’Fortunato!’ No answer. I called again: ’Fortunato!’ No answer still…” (19) Whether Montresor gets respect or not from his unknown listener is not clear in the text, whoever it is never speaks. However, even though he is confessing, most readers will look him as a heartless murderer, whether he is feeling guilty or not.

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Human Cruelty And Evil in The Cask of Amontillado Novel

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Evil Inside

“Pay attention…Sometimes it’s the person giving you the medicine who’s making you sick” (Maraboli). Looks are not always what they appear just as Steve Maraboli mentions in the quote above. While you may think a person has your best interest at heart, what is actually on their heart may be quite opposite of that. Authors Edgar Allen Poe, in his short story The Cask of Amontillado, and Shirley Jackson, in The Lottery, both summarize man’s capacity for evil as being limitless and show that evil is present inside all men, no matter how innocent or moral they may appear to be.

The Cask of Amontillado is an excellent example of not only the limitless bounds of man’s evil but also reflecting the evil within men, though pure their intentions may seem. Though the narrator reveals himself to the reader immediately in the story, he goes to great lengths to fool Fortunato into believing that not only are they friends, but also that he has high regard of his opinion regarding fine wines. Knowing that a “connoisseurship in wine” (Poe 592) is Fortunato’s “weak point” (Poe 592), the narrator uses this knowledge to set his trap. By appealing to Fortunato’s pride and fancy, the narrator lures Fortunato into “insufferably damp” (Poe 593) catacombs “encrusted with nitre” (Poe 593) to sample a cask of Amontillado and prove its validity. In order to allude Fortunato into not becoming suspicious of their journey deeper and deeper into the catacombs, the narrator is diligent about checking on the condition of his friend’s cough and goes so fas as to “implore [him] to return” (Poe 595) as he says Fortunato’s “health is precious” (Poe 593) and “a man to be missed” (Poe 593) should any ill befall him. Montressor’s act is so believable that even after chaining his friend in a small portion of the catacombs, Fortunato was “too much astounded to resist” (Poe 595). He was never aware that Montressor had planned every detail of this ending, from having a “trowel…beneath the folds of [his] roquelaire” (Poe 594) to insuring his attendants would not be home by giving them “explicit orders” (Poe 593) not to leave the house, knowing that they would all immediately disappear. The lengths that Montressor had gone to however, did not stop there. Once he had gotten Fortunato drunk and chained to the wall, he “uncovered a quantity of building stone and mortar” (Poe 595) that he had previously hid “among the pile of bones” (Poe 595) for the sole purpose of bricking Fortunato in and leaving him there unable to escape. Had Fortunato seen the evil that Montressor was capable of, he would have never followed him down to the Amontillado and his death.

Shirley Jackson also does a good job of showing man’s unlimited capacity for evil as well as once again reinforcing the fact that even someone as pure and innocent as a child has a heart tainted by evil. The Lottery begins by describing the villagers of the town gathering on a warm, “clear and sunny” (Jackson 604) “full-summer” (Jackson 604) day. The situation seems completely innocent as children were playing and stuffing their pockets “full of stones” (Jackson 604), men were “speaking of planting and rain” (Jackson 604), and the women “exchanged bits of gossip” (Jackson 604) on what at first seemed like a normal day in any small town. The lottery that was about to be conducted was carried out by the same person who handled the “square dances, the teenage club, [and] the Halloween program” (Jackson 605), a man “who had time and energy to devote to civic activities” (Jackson 605). It was a “tradition” (Jackson 605) that brought the entire town together year after year and since “no one liked to upset” (Jackson 605) as much tradition as even the box that was used represented, it had gone unchanged since the beginning. The sick irony of the tradition however was that instead of drawing for money, the villagers were drawing for death which is where Jackson reveals man’s unlimited capacity of evil. Though the villagers knew every year that one of them, regardless of their age, gender, or place in the community, would draw the black dot and be killed. Instead of breaking tradition and standing up for what was right, the villagers were willing every year to voluntarily draw from the box and then immediately turn on their friend with stones intent upon murder. No villager was innocent or exempt from the evil either regardless of how moral they might have seemed and the stones that the children were gathering in the beginning where the same stones that they would use as weapons in the end.

Evil comes in many shapes and forms and when it appears, it is usually unexpected. There is not one person that evil hasn’t touched in some way and no length that people wouldn’t go to when evil is the motivation. The atrocities that are committed every day, as well as the short stories The Cask of Amontillado and The Lottery, all show us that evil has no limits and will rear its ugly head in whomever it can seduce.

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Edgar Allan Poe’s Description of the Topic of Vengeance as Illustrated in His Book, The Cask of Amontillado

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Is revenge ever justified? Mankind believes in the necessity of revenge to make justice, by their own hands. The idea of revenge has been present in numerous novels, television shows, as well as movies and films. For instance in the movie Taken, the theme of revenge is clearly shown when a retired Gonverment Agent, Bryan, suffers the kidnapping of his daughter while on a trip to France and he wants to annhilate everyone involved in the disappearance, promissing to himself to take revenge for what they did to his daughter. Essentially, in “The Cask of Amontillado,” Poe presents the reader with Montressor, an egotistical maniac, who’s drive for revenge leads him to imprisoning and killing Fortunato, the man who supposedly insults Montressor, though to what extent is unknown. Poe uses peculiar word choice, sophisticated verbal irony, and the theme of revenge to convey an eerie and melodramatic mood which becomes one of the main elements in “The Cask of Amontillado.”

Helping create the mood, Poe uses dramatic and verbal irony to help extend the suspenseful and mysterious mood throughout the story. For instance, when Montressor and Fortunato meet and they want to go try some of the Amontillado, he refers to Fortunato by saying, “My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. (375)” Evidently the author is showing verbal irony because, clearly Montressor doesn’t care about Fortunato’s health, yet he refers to him as “friend.” The use of dramatic irony is implemented at the end of the story, Fortunato says to Montressor,” Will not [Lady Fortunato and the rest] be awaiting us at the palazzo? Let us be gone,”(379) and Montressor agrees to him by saying “Yes…let us be gone.(379)” Clearly, both of them say the same phrase, however the meaning is different. Fortunato wants to go home, with his wife, while Montressor wants him gone forever.Furthermore, the use of dramatic irony is present when Montressor tells himself that“I [continue]…to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation. (372)” Clearly, Fortunato did not expect anything sinister from his trustworthy friend. Moreover, the hint Montressor gives to the readers with his smile of immolation, the reader knows something nefarious is about to occur to Fortunato .Certainly, the use of irony contributes to the shaping of the mood throughout the story, as well as the congenial and intricate use of word choice.

The use of word choice is perspicuously seen in “The Cask of Amontillado,” to create suspenseful mood, and have an unpredictable idea of the story. Poe carefully chooses words that convey a strong sense of place to reader and contribute to the creation of tension. For example, even though a carnival setting is expected to be joyful and exuberant, Poe saddens the tone of the setting by stating to the reader that, “It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season (372).” The setting was greatly changed, because of the unique use of word choice, that is enough can give the story a completely different twist. Consequently, the repetition of words builds up the tension of the story. Another great example of word choice can be perceived when they are at the catacombs and Poe says, “A succession of loud and shrill screams, [burst] suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back.(379)” The word choice applied in the descriptive passages such as these, help the reader feel the chilly mood and what the characters sense. Toward the end the use of repetition of words can clearly be seen how it contributes to the mood. For example, the tension starts building up at Fortunato’s final moments, when Fortunato says, “For the love of God, Montressor… Yes, for the love of God.” Assuredly, this repetition of words creates an austere sense to the reader, and contributes with one of the most important aspects in this short story, the mood.

A great factor that determines the gothic and suspenseful mood of the story is the theme employed by Poe. “The Cask of Amontillado” shares the theme of revenge, and its a component of the mood built throughout the story. For example, “The thousands injuries of Fortunato I had Borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.(372)” The theme of revenge clearly can be felt, and plays a key role in the mood of the story. Due to the revenge, the mood is eerie, creepy, with a sense of sinister. Another great example is shown, “At length, I [will] be avenged; this was a point definitively settled.” Assuredly, the mood is not only eerie, but mysterious as well. Montressor is seeking for revenge, but the reader does not know why he is seeking for revenge, greatly contributing with the mood.

The use of sumptous word choice, and astounding verbal irony, tied togeher with the theme convey an eerie and melodramatic mood which becomes one of the main elements in “The Cask of Amontillado.” Furthermore, he demonstrates that verbal irony, as well as the strenuous word choice, and the theme of revenge contribute to the creation of the mood in the story.

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“The Cask of Amontillado”: Guilt can Never be Silenced

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”, published in 1844, proves to be a cautionary tale of the repression of guilt. The story is told through the perspective of Montresor, a man who is deeply insulted by his ‘friend’ Fortunato. Montresor vows to extract revenge for the insults thrown at him and his family, and does so through murder. Throughout the story, it becomes evident that Montresor will not get away with the crime he intends to commit, and instead will be haunted by the details of the deed. The motive for the crime and pieces of irony within the story support the idea that conscience cannot be silenced, especially when one attempts to bury the guilt of their sins.

Montresor’s reasoning for wanting revenge on Fortunato does not justify the crime he commits, which contributes to why he feels guilt for the act. In the very beginning of the story, Montresor says, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (714). The reason why Montresor is seeking revenge is not because of the injury caused, but because Fortunato has insulted his family’s name. It is revealed that Montresor’s family motto is “Nemo me impune lacessit”, which translates to “No one insults me with impunity” (717). Montresor feels as though he cannot let Fortunato get away with his insults due to the motto his family has lived by. But, at the same time, that reasoning is not enough to justify murder, not even to Montresor. That is why he cannot move on from the crime he commits. Although the insults are never described in detail, it can be inferred that they have something to do with societal standards. There is a war between Montresor and Fortunato over their rank in society. The Montresor name has diminished in importance, while the Fortunato name has flourished. Montresor tells Fortunato, “You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was” (716). Montresor is jealous of Fortunato because he has acquired all the things Montresor has lost. His revenge is structured not only around requitement for his family’s name, but also out of his own personal envy. Fortunato has everything Montresor wants, but no longer has. Although the jealousy and hope to avenge his family’s insulted name push Montresor to kill Fortunato, in the end they do not hold up as meaningful justifications. Montresor has trouble repressing the crime he has committed because the guilt is too strong. His motive for murder was not strong enough to allow him to see the crime as justified, which is why he lives buried in guilt over a crime that happened over half a century ago.

Throughout the story, details derived in irony foreshadow that the crime will not go the way Montresor wishes it to go. In the catacombs, Montresor describes his family’s coat of arms to Fortunato; “A huge human foot d’or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel” (717). The description depicts a foot crushing a snake, while the snake bites the foot. It is a double ended sword that is ironic to the situation at hand. As if one is the snake and one is the foot, both Fortunato and Montresor will be hurt by Montresor’s actions. Fortunato will be killed, and Montresor will live in guilt. Montresor seeks revenge for the insults to the Montresor name, while the Montresor coat of arms warns about the outcome. With his motive clear, Montresor states that he must commit the crime without getting caught; “I must not only punish but punish with impunity” (715). This simple statement proves to be extremely ironic because Montresor succeeds in punishing Fortunato, but he fails in getting away with it. The only guideline to how he must handle his revenge is the one that is not followed. Although Montresor does not get caught by others, he is the only force standing in the way of his freedom from the crime. Montresor has failed in his task. Even though Fortunato is dead, Montresor has lived, and will live, under the heavy burden of guilt. In an ironic twist, the murder was in vain, as it was not completed with impunity. The Montresor coat of arms and the plan to punish with impunity are ironic details that serve in foreshadowing Montresor’s fate, and his never-ending burden of guilt.

In the end, Montresor successfully kills Fortunato, but due to the guilt he can never forget, he never gets away with the crime. When he is constructing the wall that buries Fortunato, Montresor has trouble with the last stone, “There remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight” (719). The last stone represents the deed finally being done. Montresor struggles with it because he then must come to terms with the crime he has committed. With the last stone in place, the crime is done, and it is real. The weight of the last stone also symbolizes the weight finishing the crime has on Montresor, and the emotional struggle repressing the act will have. Montresor has trouble with the physical burial of Fortunato just like how he has trouble with the emotional burial of his own guilt. The crime is played out like a mirror; the last stone and the burial representing the emotional weight of the crime and the burial of the guilt. In addition, there are moments in the story that lead to the belief that Montresor is hesitant with the crime. When he first chains Fortunato to the wall, he suddenly stops, “For a brief moment I hesitated, I trembled” (718). Montresor is unsure about what he is doing. He has to stop before he can continue. The act of committing the crime is becoming real in this moment, it is no longer just a plan. When it is all over, Montresor falls ill, “My heart grew sick; it was dampness of the catacombs that made it so” (719). The nitre is not the cause of Montresor’s heartsickness. The cause is the crime. Montresor does not want to believe that he could be feeling ill from what he has done, so he proposes and excuse. In reality, Montresor is being to feel guilt. “He still remembers his heart’s ‘growing sick – on account of the dampness of the catacombs,’ but his heartsickness likely arises from the empathy with the man he is leaving to die amid that dampness” (Baraban). Montresor will never be able to escape the heartsick feeling he feels in the catacombs because it follows him his entire life. When the story is over, Montresor says, “In pace requiescat”, which means, “May he rest in peace” (719). This short statement indicates that Montresor is sorry for what he has done, and further supports the fact that he will never get over the crime he has committed. The weight of the last stone, the hesitation in the crime, and the obvious guilt that is felt proves that Montresor will not be able to get away with the murder of Fortunato.

The guilt for the sin Montresor has committed stays with him for most of his life, supporting the idea that the conscience cannot be silenced. Montresor wants to get away with the murder, but he is standing in his own way of freedom. After he has finished sharing the story of Fortunato’s death, he says, “Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them” (719). Montresor is sharing this story fifty years after it has happened. Even though he has tried to bury the emotional burden, it could not be ignored. G.R. Thompson argues that “Montresor, rather than having successfully taken his revenge ‘with impunity’…has instead suffered a fifty-year’s ravage of conscience” (Baraban). Montresor has failed in his task to murder Fortunato without paying for it because he has payed for it for fifty years. His guilt has been a weight on him and finally he is telling the truth and admitting to the crime. Baraban explains that “Thompson uses the fact that Montresor’s narration is actually a confession made on his deathbed to support the argument about Montresor’s troubled conscience”. Fifty years after the crime, Montresor is dying. He has suffered half of a century with the weight of a sin crushing him. He reveals it as he is dying, unable to die without confessing his guilt. Montresor suffered “pangs of conscience” for almost all his life (Baraban). The fact that the story is told by Montresor fifty years after it occurred means that he had been struggling with his guilt for all that time, supporting the idea that conscience can never be silenced.

In “The Cask of Amontillado”, by Edgar Allan Poe, the unjustified motive for murder, the ironic details that foreshadow the outcome, and the guilt that Montresor feels support the claim that conscience can never be buried or ignored. Montresor tried to commit a crime in order to extract revenge. In the end, he successfully killed Fortunato, but destroyed himself in the process. The guilt of the crime weighed heavy on Montresor for fifty years until he could no longer hide the crime he committed. This story is a cautionary tale that serves to warn others; guilt cannot be buried as easily as the body.

Works Cited

Baraban, Elena V. “The Motive for Murder in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe.” Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature 58.2 (2004): 47-62. Web.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask of Amontillado.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Volume B, 8th ed. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012. 714– 719. Print.

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Repression of Sexuality in “The Cask of Amontillado”

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” features a unique symbolism of the repression of homosexual desire and of the damaging effects of a society that promotes repressive behavior. This short story details the process of imprisoning that which the narrator despises—both literally and metaphorically. Yet a queer analytical lens brings the figurative homoerotic undertones of the tale to light; focusing predominantly on sexuality illuminates the metaphorical imprisonment and repression of the narrator’s same-sex desires. Ultimately, the narrator suppresses his sexuality and displaces his hatred onto Fortunato due to societal pressures, thus acting to stifle something considered taboo and heinous.

Queer theory analyzes the role of sexuality in literary works and its influence on characters’ identities. Whether a character’s sexuality is blatantly stated, subtlety alluded to, or completely ignored in a text, its presence or lack thereof presents an intriguing analytical lens through which to dissect a piece of literature. Johanna Smith’s article “What Are Gender Criticism and Queer Theory” describes queer theory as an “emphasis on sexuality and on its broader insistence that the multifaceted and fluid character of identity negates efforts to categorize people on the basis of any one characteristic” (388). The sexuality of a character can exist on a spectrum, as that character can have queer characteristics without being labelled gay, and can experience same-sex desire while existing outside of the binary categories society creates. A character does not need to form his or her entire persona around that aspect of identity, or even to accept that aspect.

A character’s identity consists of many qualities; however, the repression and denial of any aspect can detrimentally affect well-being and mental state. If the character lives in a society where going against the norm of heterosexuality is considered detestable, then “homosexual panic, the revelation of an unspeakable same-sex desire” (Smith 391) can cause distress, and an anxious desire for repression. Once a character recognizes innate same-sex desire, that character enters a state of dread, of fear of being discovered and ostracized by society—leading to the unsuccessful suppression of sexuality. Such anxiety, combined with repression, can drastically impact a character’s mental state. That character comes to despise his or her sexuality merely for its peculiarity and society’s taboos, and for an inability to be rid of it—creating an internal conflict.

Poe’s story features numerous elements that suggest same-sex desire and symbolism for sexuality itself: “It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand” (Poe). This portion of Poe’s story relies heavily upon juxtaposing amiable and aggressive words and imagery. Poe uses words generally associated with violence such as “accosted” and “wringing” to describe the cordial actions of hugging and shaking hands—customs generally expressing friendship. This harsh contrast not only conveys the narrator’s literal hostility towards Fortunato, but also the opposing forces of love and hate that reside within him. The narrator is torn between the love and desire that come with sexuality and his hatred for homosexual desire, and for the confusion and problems it brings to his life. His constant switching between hostile and friendly words displays the internal conflict within the narrator due to his same-sex desire, which he considers madness.

Since the narrator finds his sexuality to be disorienting, it is only befitting that he executes his plan to completely rid himself of it during a carnival—the epitome of foolishness and insanity. He then finds a person to personify his sexuality—his friend, Fortunato—a man known for improper antics and who is literally wearing clothing worn by fools. The narrator’s focus on the clothing emphasizes how Fortunato represents something ridiculous and strange, an image of how Montresor views his same-sex desire. Although he wishes to completely rid himself of his sexuality, and subsequently the man who represents it, Montresor cannot help but feel a slight joy in allowing himself to stop repressing his desire for a moment. The pleasure that the narrator apparently gleans from seeing Fortunato also translates into his joy upon letting his desire out into the open.

Montresor allows his homoerotic desire to escape, for he knows that, to completely rid himself of it, he must confront and capture it. He cannot take action against this desire while denying its existence. Once he fully acknowledges his sexuality, his hatred for having such a scandalous desire bubbles to the surface and he projects his harsh emotions onto Fortunato. Having a person as the personification of his sexuality gives Montresor a physical entity on which to focus his rage and confusion. The contradicting phrases that the narrator uses to describe Fortunato support the notion that Montresor does not hate him as a man, but merely hates what he represents. He describes Fortunato as a friend many times, and as he finishes trapping him inside the catacombs, his “heart [grows] sick” (Poe), a sentiment which he weakly attributes to the mugginess of the tunnel. Montresor feels such pain after completely sealing off Fortunato because he has hurt his friend, and has also lost a part of his identity.

Despite the projection of hate onto Fortunato and the desire to be rid of something that causes suffering, Montresor does not want to completely distance himself from his sexuality. He recognizes that his same-sex desire is part of his sense of self, and that completely suppressing it would cause him to lose a piece of himself. Even though he wishes to destroy his source of shame, Montresor does not violently murder Fortunato—and subsequently his sexuality—but constructs an elaborate plan to literally wall up his feelings and the man. He chooses his own family catacomb to become the resting place of his sexuality—a place close by, and reserved only for those dear to Montresor. Montresor also has second thoughts about finishing the wall as his goals start to become reality; he even calls to Fortunato, as he realizes that his metaphorical sexuality is leaving him. These small details reveal that the narrator does not innately hate his homoeroticism, nor truly want to rid himself of it.

Although he does not inherently despise his sexuality, Montresor cannot explore his feelings and thus feels ostracized, causing him to project his hatred of society and himself onto Fortunato. By sealing away Fortunato, Montresor literally and figuratively walls up his desire and removes the source of his frustration and of his feelings of being different. Montresor forces himself to completely seal off his sexuality so that he will no longer be separated from the norm and can reintegrate himself back into society. His intense distress over something unspeakable in his society causes him to experience homosexual panic, go slightly mad, and construct a scheme to rid himself of a strong desire.

Montresor’s suppression of his sexuality due to living in a culture that admonishes such behavior leads to the events described in the story. In an effort to be “normal,” the narrator constructs a plan to forever rid himself of his same-sex desire. He personifies his sexuality as his friend Fortunato, towards whom he then directs all of his hatred for having homoerotic aspects and the ostracization that comes with them. Montresor’s literal sealing away of Fortunato symbolizes the complete suppression of that aspect of his identity, something that he does not truly despise nor want to lose, but that he knows he must eliminate in order to function as a social being. The distress that Montresor experiences symbolizes the detrimental effects of a society that promotes the repression of sexuality.

Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe –” Poestories. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Smith, Johanna. “What Are Gender Criticism and Queer Theory.” Frankenstein: Complete, Authoritative Text with Biographical, Historical, and Cultural Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Contemporary Critical Perspectives, Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000, pp. 381-400

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Heavy Symbolism and the Characterization of the Narrator in Hawthorne’s The Minister’s Black Veil and Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Both stories, The Minister’s Black Veil, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and The Cask of Amontillado, written by Edgar Allan Poe, are both known to be examples of gothic horror from the 19th century. While both stories were written within the same time period and are of the same genre, they differ from one another. Writing is so broad, that authors are capable of portraying a certain genre through focusing on different aspects of their writing. Hawthorne’s story concentrates on portraying an overall message with heavy symbolism, whereas Poe’s story is a tale more focused on the characterization of the narrator and his revenge driven journey.

The Minister’s Black Veil is a story that could also be described as a parable. This could be said because Hawthorne has an underlying message within the story that he’s trying to convey to his readers. The overall focus is placed on the Minister, who wears a black veil after he commit an unknown sin. The message that is conveyed here is that people are hypocritical; just because the Minister’s sin is visible by way of the veil, they judge him. However, just because they don’t have a visual representation of their own sins like the Minister, they seemingly have forgotten about them and act as if they are pure. “He could not walk the street with any peace of mind, so conscious was he that the gentle and timid would turn aside to avoid him, and that others would make it a point of hardihood to throw themselves in his way.” In this example, the townspeople are going out of their way to either avoid him or to get in his way, which showcase their judgements. Hawthorne also uses a lot of symbolism in this story, a strong example being the veil that the Minister wears. “If I hide my face for sorrow, there is cause enough… and if I cover it for secret sin, what mortal might not do the same?” Hawthorne is directly linking the veil with secret sin within this example, showing the symbolism.

While Hawthorne’s story was more centralized towards structure, The Cask of Amontillado strays towards the characterization of the narrator. The narrator of this story is clearly mad, which is portrayed in this example, “The thousand of injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.” The fact that the narrator has “borne thousands of injuries” from this Fortunato character, but decided to seek revenge only when he insulted him, depicts his madness. Also, in this example the narrator is using hyperbole; exaggerating the amount of times he’s been “hurt” by Fortunato, which shows that while the character has probably wronged him in the past, he needs to exaggerate in order to feel good about enacting his revenge. Poe also utilizes a great deal of irony in this story. An example would be, “And I to your long life.” which is ironic because here Montresor is drinking to Fortunato’s “long life”, which the readers know won’t be very long at all because of his plot to seek revenge and murder him. The use of this irony further depicts the narrator’s insanity.

Both Hawthorne and Poe wrote similarly in the aspect of genre and time; however, their stories differ drastically. Hawthorne focuses on symbolism and underlying messages within his story, whereas Poe tends to focus more on the characterization of his narrator through the use of tools such as irony and hyperbole. This demonstrates just how broad writing can truly be. Even though both of these stories were written in a similar time period and genre, they still have vast differences.

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