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Death in The Cask of Amontillado Essay


Edgar Allan Poe tells a story of cold, calculated revenge upon the character Fortunato for some insult that is unknown to the reader. He seeks revenge in the name of the Montresor family in accordance with their motto displayed on their coat of arms: "Nemo me impune lacessit."("No one harms me unpunished.") The central idea is that Montresor, wishes for Fortunato to suffer. He will derive much pleasure from watching him suffer as he dies and tries, in vain, to escape his tomb. He wishes for Fortunato to die slowly so that he suffers and realizes that his lust for the Amontillado wine has led him down into the catacombs and to his death. It can be said that since the central idea is somewhat vague, that Poe's intentions were to create a piece built upon horror.

Montresor has suffered insult or injury of some type at the hands of Fortunato.. Montresor is seeking revenge against Fortunato and cleverly tricks him into following into the catacombs of his families dwelling where he intends to exact this revenge. It can be said of Montresor that he is a vengeful man with premeditated murder on his mind when he says of Montresor that he continued "to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation." When he meets Fortunato at the carnival, he is very happy to see him. It would seem that his happiness can be attributed to the fact that he realizes the time of his revenge is at hand. Fortunato, who is very intoxicated, is introduced as wearing a costume of a jester. This is very appropriate to the situation since Montresor is intending to make a fool of him by playing upon his greatest desire, the love of wine, to lead him to his own death.

The conflict stems from the fact that Montresor or his family has been the victim of some insult at the hands of Fortunato. The gravity of the situation is somewhat exaggerated by the narrator in the opening line of the story when Montresor states: "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge....At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely settled....I must not only punish, but punish with impunity." It seems that Montresor has been waiting a long time for revenge. It seems that he has had ample time to plan out just how he intended to bring Fortunato to his demise.

The story is told from a first person narrative point of view. The reader is led through the story from Montresor's standpoint. Being the tortured, twisted soul that Montresor is portrayed as being, the impact of the story is heightened in seeing things from this point of view. By viewing the story in this way, the reader is able to see inside the mind of a murderer. Montresor retains a flat affect throughout the entire course of the work. He shows no sympathy for his intended victim, nor does he show any remorse for what takes place. It is nothing more than satisfying his own lust for revenge. This coldness can be seen in passages where Fortunato makes the remark; "the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I will not die of a cough." And Montresor replies: "True, true." And also when Fortunato is screaming in the darkness while Montresor, apparently, just sits down and waits for him to stop screaming.

The story takes place at dusk one evening at a carnival at an undisclosed location in Europe. The opening of the story begins in a light-hearted atmosphere, which is denoted by all of the bright colors, and the "supreme madness" of the festivities at hand. This atmosphere quickly changes when Montresor leads his victim into the dark, damp catacombs underneath his family's estate. It is here that the setting is created for Montresor to carry out his act of revenge upon Fortunato. This setting in the catacombs give the reader the information needed to contrive his own images of the event which is about to take place. It is dark and damp with skeletons from ages past littered about the walls and floor of the catacombs. It is in the buildup of the setting that Poe does his greatest work in this story. Since the central idea of the story appears to be mostly geared toward creating a work of horror, Poe focuses his attentions in the arena of the setting. By use of this element, Poe has created a vivid image for the reader which draws him or her deeper into the story. His skillful use of detail in describing the setting truly seems to make the story what it is: a work of horror

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