Sociopathic Killers in The Cask of Amontillado by E.A. Poe and Night of the Hunter by Charles Laughton
“The cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe and the Night of the Hunter directed by Charles Laughton both depict seemingly normal men who are, deep down, twisted sociopathic killers. These narratives depict the dark side of humanity and the frightening existence of evil in the world.
Both narratives employ the use of dramatic irony to create tension in the very beginning of the story. Montressor states, “You who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose however, that I gave utterance to a threat” (P.73). The reader is put in the uncomfortable situation of not only being privy to Fortunato’s fate but also through the use of the second person’s point of view of being addressed as if they were an associate of this disturbed narrator. Similarly Laughton depicts scenes where only the audience is aware of Powell’s true nature. For example, in one of the diner scenes, Pearl jumps on Powell’s lap and Laughton frames him with a low angle and side lighting. All the characters praise Powell as an upright man of God while the audience is left to squirm in their seats. Half of Powell’s face is in a shadow emphasizing his dark side and the low angle of the camera conveys his dominance.
Both narratives have the theme that appearances can be deceiving. Both Powell and Montressor are seen by the communities as honorable men, although they conceal their darker sides. In the case of Powell, he is a preacher, although he has a skewed perception on serving God and acts like killing others is particularly pleasing to God. Powell acts like killing people, especially someone you just married, stealing and trying to kill children is Godly. Montressor on the other hand is a rich nobleman and is seen as honorable by his community. An example of the theme of the narrative is when Montressor says, “My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labor. This quote could be misconstrued as Montressor feeling bad for Fortunado, when in reality he is being sarcastic and it reinforces the theme of how appearances can be deceiving. Another example of how Montressor appears to be really interested in getting the opinion of Fortunato on his wine, which he says is a cask of Amontillado. In reality Montressor has ulterior motives and deceives Fortunato with his friendliness.
Both narratives use foreshadowing to give the reader a look into the potential events that could happen later in the story. An example of foreshadowing is a conversation Fortunato and Montressor have, “I drink”, he said “to the buried that repose around us.”, “And I to your long life.” The reader by this point, knows Montresor’s motives and he is giving Fortunato hints about his life ending. Another use of foreshadowing from the Cask of Amontillado is when Fortunato pierces a spear through a skeleton which is wearing clothing similar to his. He foreshadows his own death and how he will end up in the catacombs. A powerful example of foreshadowing from the Night of the Hunter is when Pearl and John are in a boat on the river and the scene transitions to an owl perching on a branch overlooking a rabbit, the owl flies down and preys on the rabbit which represents, Powell killing the children or stealing their money.
The resolutions of both stories are very different, although death is involved in the endings of both of the stories. In the case of the Cask of Amontillado, the resolution of the story is Montressor sealing in Fortunato for his slow death. He then says, “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!” Which gives context on how old Montressor is and how long ago the events occurred as well as him not feeling any remorse for his actions. The resolution of the Night of the Hunter is when Powell is brought to justice because he murdered Willa Harper and others as well as attempting to kill Pearl and John in hopes of acquiring their hidden money. The children get to live with Rachael Cooper along with the children she has taken in and the ending is a happy one opposite of the negative ending of the Cask of Amontillado.
The Night of the Hunter and the Cask of Amontillado have been popular for the past century both stories convey the themes that you can’t trust anyone and that looks can be deceiving. Both stories portray the theme that looks can be incredibly deceiving as in the case of Powell, the preacher turns out to be a murderer! The use of lighting in the Night of the Hunter as well as the Cask of Amontillado was credibly thought out and is used in intriguing ways to convey feelings/emotions and even symbolism. In conclusion these were two great narratives that I’d recommend to anyone especially the film version of the Night of the Hunter.
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