The Cask of Amontillado Essay

Posted on June 16, 2009

In the short story “The Cask of Amontillado” written by an American poet, writer, editor, and literary critic Edgar Allan 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 – Edgar Allan Poe. In general, the story is based on one man’s obsession with revenge, and the way he plans to do it. Known as one of the best short stories in the world literature, “The Cask of Amontillado” contains a range of themes that impress and hook the readers from the very first page. The themes are the following – fear, suspense, and revenge.

The main character (he is the narrator of the story as well) is Montresor. It is a wealthy nobleman that seems to get picked on tremendously by the other character named 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 with the help of many stylistic elements, as well as supported by Edgar Allan Poe’s background. What “The Cask of Amontillado” shows is how one man’s revenge inevitably becomes another man’s death.

The author of the story, Edgar Allan Poe, was born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts. A year after his birth, his mother died from a mysterious disease that also took away his father’s life. After these tragic events, he then went to live with the family of John Allan. Later, the boy went to the University of Virginia until it was closed in December 1826.

Because of Poe’s debts that he accumulated over the entire school year, he and Allan quarreled a lot. As a result, 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 all the debts, the world may very well have never learned about this wonderful author that we know today.

In his later years, Poe ended up marrying his cousin. Unfortunately, the death of his beloved one caused him much suffering and sorrow that ultimately caused Poe’s unexplainable death in October 1949. As for the author’s death, it is important to mention that no one actually knows how Edgar Allan Poe passed away. It is known that he was found by a stranger on October 3. Poe was in a semiconscious state, in a tavern located in Baltimore. Four days later, the famous author was no longer with us. The tavern was also used as a place, where people were voting during elections. They say that Edgar Allan Poe could become a victim of some kind of fraud that involved the swindles plying people with alcohol in the street to make them vote more than once while being dressed differently. Taking everything mentioned into account, people come up with different theories related to possible causes of the man’s death. Some of them include a brain tumor, alcohol, and even murder; however, no actual explanation of his mysterious death is available even today.

Without a doubt, Edgar Allan Poe was much more than a writer. The truth is that he was a critic of 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. Various themes played another big part in Poe’s short stories because they conveyed a sense of suspense and fear to the readers and how people got revenge.
The theme also plays a big part in a short story. Well, to be honest, it does play a crucial part in a novel as well. The 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 just for fun 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 plays an important role as well. 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 the author himself convey that sense of morbid and horrifying theme is a common thing 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 have no elements of suspense and horror. A lot of critics also agree that the main theme of the story deals with the struggles of conscience and the ones people have in nature and in society. Critics revere Poe’s use of characters and suspense, but they 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 many stylistic devices that makes Poe a wonderful writer and his themes a work of beauty. When talking about beauty, it is important to mention that despite all the iconic photographs with a morose-looking writer on them, everyone who knew Edgar Allan Poe described the man as attractive. What is more, he had admirers, who noted how striking Poe’s eyes were. They noted that his eyes were of a different color – hazel, blue, violet, and gray – in different situations.

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 in order 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 consequences come after. “The Cask of Amontillado” is one of Poe’s best works. No doubt, it is one of the scariest as well.

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