Main Theme In Cask of Amontillado Main Theme
Do you remember that thing you did, yeah THAT thing, that one you got away with? You get that sick feeling every time you think about it, that feeling is called guilt. You regret doing it so you blame the feeling on something else, but eventually, you know you it will stick with you until you confess. After confessing, you get grounded and your parents take away your phone for about a week usually, that means, GUESS WHAT, no Snapchat streaks! Oh no! Tragedy isn’t it?
Well, realize that you aren’t the only person who gets this feeling. Mr. Montressor, from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ has this feeling for 50 years. The plot in which an injury that we don’t know about and becomes a scheme for revenge is not unusual in Poe’s stories. Because the narrator does not make clear the manner in which the assault was, we as readers have no way of knowing if the punishment given out fits the crime committed, which raises the suspicion that the narrator might be insane. Fortunato is the man who had injured and insulted Montressor. Montressor plots to kill Fortunato for throwing shade on his family.
When Fortunato and Montressor run into each other at a carnival, Fortunato is nearly intoxicated while Montressor is explaining how he has acquired a pipe of a very expensive and highly-desired wine called ‘Amontillado.’ He is planning to seek a worthy, so to speak, and professional wine taster to quench his doubts. When Fortunato hears of this, he immediately lies to him saying that he is a better wine taster than any he will ever find, while Montressor is impressed that his plan is actually working. Not knowing what Montressor is really trying to do to him, he blindly follows him to his basement (we now know the saying, ‘Be a leader, not a follower.’), now fully intoxicated, and then into a catacomb, of some sort, beneath it.
I find this to be very unusual considering that Montressor’s family claims to be a wealthy line of masons. Montressor’s action next surprises me, he shows Fortunato the trowel he owns, which in fact is the one he is going to use to wall him in, thus killing him. Fortunato’s ignorance surprises me vastly, he doesn’t seem to understand what Montressor is planning to do to him, mainly because he is already intoxicated and doesn’t know any better. Handing Fortunato the rest of the bottle of the top-class wine, Montressor proceeds with his plan of walling in Fortunato. Brick by brick, Fortunato starts to sober up and realize what’s happening. He sees the chains around his wrists, but by the time he was completely sober, he was fully walled in.
He started screaming Montressor’s name in confusion, anger, and fear was this but a joke? Wasn’t very funny if it was. His screams slowly turned into muffled groans and whines as Montressor too realizes what he has done, he had just killed a man, walled him in, suffocated him, deprived him of food and water to die a slow and painful death in catacombs! ‘I must not only punish but punish with impunity.’ Montressor tries to picture, but when the screams were no more and the cold dampness was the only thing left, he felt that sick feeling I mentioned in the beginning, guilt. He had just killed a man in cold blood all because of a family insult! He calls Fortunato’s name once, ‘Fortunato?’ no answer, twice, ‘Fortunato?’ nothing. A third time, ‘Fortunato?’ but to no avail. “My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labor. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry, I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century, no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!”
One could argue that guilt can be a good thing in some cases. Moreover, Montressor can blow off his guilt as nothing, like in the story he bricks away Fortunato as well as the guilt he feels away with him forever. My argument against that is that he feels the guilt after almost finishing walling away Fortunato, he was feeling regret, he felt such for 50 years, so I guess he’s the kind of person who can blow off guilt. In the last few sentences, Montressor reveals that 50 years later, Fortunato’s body still hangs from its chains in the niche where he left it.
The murderer concludes: In pace requiescat! (‘May he rest in peace!’). My thoughts on this ending are
- How did nobody question his disappearance for FIFTY YEARS? Did his family even care?
- What was our narrator thinking as he walled in a living, breathing human being? ‘Justice is served’?
- How does someone who injured a man and insulted his family before seeing the man at a carnival and automatically think they are the best of friends right at that moment? Was it because he had an expensive wine?
- Why would you do something so undignified as killing a man over a petty insult? Is our narrator loopy?
My conclusion, don’t do something you know you are going to regret in the future if you know it’s something that’s going to stick with you. Guilt is a terrible thing, you know that when you do these things you are getting caught for it or admitting it at some point. So be good, keep the streaks you so desire greatly. In other words: Don’t do the crime and you don’t do the time, think about it. Although Montressor didn’t have Snapchat during that time, he reveals that he felt sick to his stomach, dismisses it as the ‘dampness of the catacombs’ and keeps Fortunato’s body and bones in that cellar for the next 50 years.
If he told that to the police, he would not get some little punishment like ‘No Phone for a week’ no, he would be charged with the murder of a man, guess what, prison! Feeling as if you are about to throw up after doing something bad is guilt. That is my theory of the main theme/moral of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, ‘The Cask of Amontillado’.
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