The Cask of Amontillado Essay
June 16, 2009
In the short story “The Cask of Amontillado”, by Edgar Allen Poe, the author uses many different stylistic elements to convey a certain and eerie sense of tone and theme. “The Cask of Amontillado”, written in 1846, is considered a horror fiction that is based on the mental thoughts and feelings of the author, Poe. The story, based on one man’s obsession with revenge and how he plans on doing it.
The main character and narrator, Montresor, a wealthy nobleman or seems to get picked on tremendously by the other character Fortunato. Fortunato, a connoisseur of wine, has a hard time not wanting to drink it all the time. The plot goes on to lure Fortunato into the catacombs and into the shackles where he is put to his doom. Montresor then surrounds his enemy with bricks and watches him die in a long and slow death. The theme is made through many stylistic elements, such as character and Edgar Allen Poe’s background. “The Cask of Amontillado” shows how one man’s revenge is another man’s death.
Edgar Allen Poe was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts. A year after his birth, his mother died of an unknown cause which also caused his father’s death. He then went to live with the family of John Allan and then went to the University of Virginia until it closed in December 1826. Because of Poe’s debts that he accumulated over the entire school year, he and Allan quarreled and Poe left Richmond a penniless youth. Poe’s early life is relevant to this writing style because this lifestyle is where he got his unlimited images and countless morbid fears about life and death. Without the death of both parents and him being sent away because of debts, the world might never had known the Poe that we know today. In his later years, Poe ended up marrying his cousin and her death cause him much suffering and sorrow that ultimately caused Poe’s unexplainable death in October, 1949. Poe was much more than a writer, he was a critic about his own work and the work of others. He invented the detective story and made the reader study the art of conscience in his short stories. Theme played another big part in Poe’s short stories because they conveyed the sense of suspense and fear to the reader and how people get revenge.
Theme also plays a big part in a short story and even in a novel. Theme can determine if the plot was good or if the suspense was thrilling enough. Even if a story has no theme, the reader still can enjoy the story for enjoyment and not for interpretive reading. In the story, “The Cask of Amontillado”, the characteristics of both characters make for a gruesome end of the story but a theme no less. In an excerpt by the Salem Press, the author states, “that Montresor is devoured by the lust of hate, which destroys his soul just as he destroys Fortunato” (Press 2). The theme stated here is that one of true hatred can conquer all even if it means death. Poe’s life also played an important part in determining the theme of the story. “Poe himself seems to have had a morbid fear of premature burial”, says D. H. Lawrence (Lawrence 1). The characters and Poe himself convey that sense of morbid and horrifying theme common to all of his short stories.
Many critics also love the style in which Edgar Allan Poe writes. In the case of “The Cask of Amontillado”, many critics find that the narrative voice in the story fits perfectly the character of the avenger. Without this character, the story would be without its suspense and horror. Critics also agree that the main theme of the story deals with the struggles of conscience and oneself in nature and in society. Critics revere Poe’s use of characters and suspense but quote that he may be a little too excessive with his imagery and poetic quote. One critic, Leonard W. Engel, states that, “Poe uses a sort of confinement to restrict his characters and their freedom” (Engel 87). This is in fact true, as Fortunato is restricted by his oppressor and his freedom and then seeks revenge to get the ultimate truth. This is one of the many stylistic devices that makes Poe and his themes a work of beauty.
In the short story, “The Cask of Amontillado”, the author uses many literary devices in order to convey and certain theme about the story. He in fact uses his own life and hardships to make the reader understand what kind of life he went through. Poe also uses his characters to convey how their own conscience can lead them to their ultimate doom. This in fact is also what the theme itself consists of. Without oppression itself, one can seek their own revenge no matter what the conscienques. “The Cask of Amontillado” is one of Poe’s best works as well as the scariest.
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