The Week Thoughts of Montresor in The Cask of Amontillado
Revenge, vengeance, retribution and malevolent all have one thing in common; the evil desire to inflict harm as retaliation for an injury or insult. When many people think of these words, they visualize a week, sadistic, and cruel person. In this circumstance, the short story “The Cask of Amontillado” written by Edgar Allan Poe portrays Montresor, a manipulative and vengeful human who wants to inflict harm on Fortunato, a proud wine connoisseur. The story begins with Montresor accusing Fortunato of doing him wrong a 1000 times and his vow to revenge as Fortunato’s last insult provoked him. Montresor’s plan was to meet Fortunato at the carnival and use his knowledge of wine to lure him down to the catacomb, an underground cemetery that belongs to Montresors’ family. As they go down the winding staircase, entering the damp catacombs, Fortunato starts coughing and Montresor offers him more sherry. At this point in the story, they are at a small crypt lined with human bones and Montresor urges Fortunato to step in and, the second he got in, Montresor chains him down and starts to build a wall with bricks and leave him there to die. Poe uses irony, imagery, and mood to exaggerate and strengthen the revengeful storyline of how Montresor acts out of agony to Fortunato and plans out a comprehensive and meticulous murder.
In the beginning, Poe uses many literary devices including irony which is flooded within this short story. He utilizes verbal irony to help readers gain insight into Montresor’s personality. Once they are in the crypt, Montresor pretends as if he wants them to turn back because Fortunato was feeling queasy. In the story, Montresor heard Fortunato coughing and he said “How long have you had that cough?” Fortunato responded, “It is nothing,” and Montresor rejects and proposes with “…we will go back…your health is precious.”(Poe 211) This alludes to the fact that Montresor knows that Fortunato never misses an opportunity to show off his wine connoisseurship, so when he acts like he wants to turn back, Fortunato refuses. After all, Fortunato was extremely drunk so he never saw through his deception but by the time Fortunato figures out that Montresor does not care about his well being and in reality wants to kill him, it is too late! The fact that Poe uses verbal irony to illustrate Montresor as such a convincing and manipulative liar, further proves that he is a psychopath that will do anything to get revenge.
During this point, Poe uses imagery to make his readers visualize exactly what Montresor sees. Poe takes advantage of the reader’s senses and creates them into a vivid image of the catacomb inside the reader’s imagination. When Montresor and Fortunato reached the most remote area of the catacomb, they saw a crypt with a “depth about four feet, in width three, [and] in hight six or seven.”(212). The words “depth”, “four feet”, “width”, “three”, “hight”, “six or seven” all helps the reader picture a small- scale room. This shows that the crypt was cramped and has limited space, so when Fortunato gets trapped, there was only slight movements. Another example is when Poe uses imagery to describe the catacombs itself. He said, “Its walls had been lined with human remains piled to the vault overhead…” The phrase “lined with human remains” shows the literary critic how creepy that room is. Also, Fortunato missed the biggest hint that other people have been killed or buried here before him but Fortunato being intoxicated would have never thought he would end up dying here. All things considered, Poe using imagery drew readers into a sensory experience while keeping them engaged.
Last but not least, Poe uses mood to create a suspenseful, creepy, and horrifying atmosphere which allows for the greater understanding of what he is conveying. Knowing that the story takes place in the dark, damp, isolated catacomb beneath Montresor’s home, the mood is perfect. For example, when Fortunato stepped into the crypt, Montresor immediately started chaining him up. Inevitably, Fortunato being drunk, did not care and thought it was a joke but he soon realized it was not when Montresor started constructing a brick wall. While “[Montresor] laid the second tier, and the third tier, and the 4th;[he] heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, [he] hearken to it with more satisfaction, [Montresor] ceased [his] labor and sat down upon the bones.” This implies that Motntresor enjoys hearing Fortunato’s screams as he is being tortured creating a creepy and horrifying mood. The Phrase, “The noise lasted for several minutes” really shows how cold hearted Montresor is because instead of feeling guilty and sorry for Fortunato, he took a break to listen to his victim hollering in pain. Overall, Poe’s usage of mood essentially helped with an eerie and climactic ending.
Through irony, imagery, and mood, Poe amplifies the clarity of Montresor’s impeccable actions against Fortunato. Montresor made his family proud by taking revenge and following their motto: “Nemo me impune lacessit” (‘No one attacks me with impunity’). Sadly, the mindset of our culture gives us permission to cling to our resentment and unresolved conflicts, but as Albert Einstein once said, “Weak people get revenge, strong people forgive, and intelligent people ignore”.
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