The Poe Decoder - "The Cask of Amontillado"
Because of the jubilance and excessiveness of the Carnival, Montresor takes advantage of the fact that he can disguise himself and lure Fortunato into his. James Rocks believes “Montresor's act of killing Fortunato is motivated Both are dilettantish Italian noblemen with long heritages, and Poe develops this dilettantism into one of the keys to the story. Both men wear masks. the link, as does Montresor's subsequent repetition of Fortunato's words three. PDF | The main aim of this paper is to bring out the irony in the two Also the difference between sarcasm and irony will be explained. .. ironic parallel between Fortunato and Montresor, so that by the end they are virtually identified. In the .. The costumes that both men are wearing is a situational irony.
It is the first important third party in United States history. With six million members but no central authority, the Free and Accepted Masons are found in nearly every English-speaking nation, including a large membership in the United States. They are more widely known for social activities and for community service than for political activity.
Poe, who did not graduate from college, is able to read Latin, French, German, Italian and Spanish, and expects his readers to have basic competence in Latin and French. Most American college graduates have taken two years or less of foreign language study. Writers are concerned that Americans do not have the attention span required to read long works of fiction. Educators and parents complain that young people, raised with televisions and computers, do not like to read for long periods, but prefer to get their information in short, visual forms.
Still, he called upon American writers to use their imaginations to produce original and vital works. A year earlier, Poe had published a collection of Tales, which had been widely reviewed. In response to the two Griswold projects came a flurry of writing about Poe, much of it praising the writing but condemning the writer. Typical was an unsigned review in the Edinburgh Review: Critics seemed unable to move beyond the general observation that Poe led a troubled life and wrote troubling stories.
In the early third of the century, Poe was widely praised for his poetry, but Gothicism had fallen out of favor and his stories were dismissed by such writers as T. Richard Benton is among those who suggest that the story can be read as historical fiction, based on real historical figures and addressing social class issues of interest to nineteenth-century Americans.
Other critics at mid-century were concerned with exploring the significance of details in the story that readers might not be expected to understand without explanation. No judgmental forces are at work. Crime is neither a negative nor a positive act. Ghost Stories by American Women, collects twenty-two stories by well-known and long-forgotten writers including Zora Neale Hurston and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
A Biography strikes the best balance between the scholarly and the popular. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation. The story is filled with twins and opposites. As the two men walk along the damp passageway, Montresor offers Fortunato two bottles of wine: In a scene that calls to mind nothing so much as Harpo Marx, Montresor produces a trowel from beneath his cloak, a sign that he, too, is a mason but of a different, deadly variety.
As the story opens, the men seem more different than alike. Montresor is cold, calculating, sober in every sense of the word. Montresor continues his duplicity. He suggests that Luchesi could taste the wine instead of Fortunato, knowing that the suggestion will make Fortunato all the more eager to taste it himself.
He emphasizes the ways in which they are opposites: You are a man to be missed.
The Cask of Amontillado | meer-bezoekers.info
For me it is no matter. My own fancy grew warm with the Medoc. Now, when Fortunato speaks, Montresor echoes his words. Why does he shine his torch inside, hoping for a response? The most chilling moment in the story happens, surely not coincidentally, at midnight the time when the two hands of the clock are in one placewhen the two men transcend human speech and communicate their oneness in another voice.
He waves his rapier around, fearing that Fortunato is coming for him, but is reassured at the touch of the solid walls. I replied to the yells of him who clamored. I reechoed I aided I surpassed them in volume and in strength. Surely the volume and the echoes would not yield two distinct voices, but one grotesque sound.
For that moment, the two are one. After the wall is completed, fifty years pass before Montresor tells the story. What has he learned in the intervening years? Has he felt remorse? It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong. By the end of the story, the two are so connected that it is all the same. If Poe did intend the two men to be read as twins or doubles, what can he have meant by it?
Critics have been pondering this question for over a century and a half. Like other archetypal images, the encounter with the double, the other side of oneself, is a powerful image that has attracted and repelled for centuries. Poe anticipated modern psychology with its id, ego and superego by showing through his stories that the monsters outside are nothing compared to the monsters we carry within us.
The journey of Montresor and Fortunato through the catacombs becomes gloomier and more ominous with each step. It hangs like moss upon the vaults. The drops of moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. We passed through a range of low arches. At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious.
Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this manner. From the fourth the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some size. In spite of his quick and effective work, Montresor pauses twice more before he finishes. Unsheathing my rapier, I began to grope with it about the recess: I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied.
I reapproached the wall. I re-echoed—I aided—I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamorer grew still. He thrusts the torch through the remaining aperture and lets it fall: My heart grew sick—on account of the dampness of the catacombs.
I hastened to make an end of my labor. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. In this story, then, enclosure has a dual aspect. One wonders if on a subconscious level Montresor is not trying to isolate, and enclose, a part of himself and a neurosis he hates—symbolized by Fortunato: But, of course, Poe does not allow him this luxury, for the conclusion of the tale clearly indicates that even though the long dead Fortunato may be buried, Montresor is still obsessed with the details of the crime and can recite them complete and intact after half a century.
The Cask of Amontillado
Like the other two narrators, Montresor, while taking pains to conceal his crime, must needs be found out. So, although the crime appears successful, the revenge is not, because Montresor has not freed himself from guilt—a fact indicated by his rendering of details which have no doubt obsessed him through every day since the deed.
Why he has preferred anonymity, while sustaining this obsession during those years, might well be explained by his unconscious fear of the guilt he would, once it was found out, consciously have to accept. It appears, then, that Montresor is making Fortunato a scapegoat and symbolically enclosing Fortunato, his own identity, in a hidden crypt deep within his own soul—out of sight but certainly not forgotten.
A similar view has been expressed by Charles Sweet: They emphasize his neurosis and symbolize the guilt he wishes to bury. Throughout the entire episode—its planning, its execution, and its confession—Monsieur Montresor made self-conscious use of cunning, plotting, and irony to wreak his revenge. The French nobleman tells his story of the calmly calculated murder of his Italian aristocratic friend Fortunato.
The crime had been perfectly executed; for fifty years now the act has gone undiscovered. With consummate evil he chose the carnival season for his crime. The season afforded a perfect setting for murder: For Montresor is not simply speaking to a sympathetic friend; he is also making his deathbed confession to a priest. Basic to appreciating this irony is a correct understanding of sacramental confession.
When Montresor killed Fortunato, he counted upon the judgment of God as the final instrument of revenge. He killed his enemy by leading him into sins of pride, vanity, and drunkenness; and without a chance for confession, Fortunato presumably would have been damned with no capacity for striking back in time or eternity.
Moreover, to assure his own salvation, Montresor relied upon the power of sacramental confession for himself. In theological terms these were bad confessions because the efficacy of the sacrament hinges upon the sincere disposition and sorrow of the penitent for all his sins.
When this is lacking, the sacrament, instead of being an instrument of salvation, becomes an instrument of damnation. Such confessions were sins of sacrilege. Montresor, therefore, has been confessing in vain. And even now, when on his deathbed Montresor confesses all his sins, he is deluded in thinking himself forgiven. He seems to be unaware, but the reader is not, of the gleeful tone of his confession. Montresor is taking delight in the very telling of his crime—hardly the disposition of a truly repentant sinner.
We can see it as a superficial expression of sorrow or a quiet satisfaction in the lasting, unchallenged completeness of his revenge. Here, surely, is the irony of a confession without repentance, an irony that makes the entire plan double back upon the doer. Fortunato, lucky as his name suggests, was saved; Montresor, damned.
The final effect is one of horror. The ultimate irony is that of a puny creature playing games with God. To be sure, critics and anthologists have almost unanimously expressed admiration for the tale; still, they have rarely attempted to find in it a consistently developed and important theme.
Indeed, most criticism of the story has the definitive ring that one associates with comments on closed issues.
Auden rather loftily to belittle it. Instead, he tells his tale with outward calm and economy; he narrates without the benefit of lurid explanations; he states facts, records dialogue, and allows events to speak for themselves.
Yet, though the tale restricts the amount of meaning directly divulged, almost all of its details fuse into a logical thematic pattern. Action and dialogue that at first appear accidental or merely horrific appear, upon close examination, to have far-reaching connotative value.
In addition, the setting and pervasive irony of the tale do not merely enhance the grotesque effect Poe obviously intends; more importantly, they contribute their share to the theme of the story. In the first of the main incidents, the two men come together only to maintain their psychological sepa-rateness; in the second, they undertake an ostensibly common journey, but pursue divergent goals; and in the denouement, when the murderer should emancipate himself from his victim, he becomes psychically attached to him.
He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. Montresor, on the other hand, is bitterly obsessed with his fall into social insignificance.
Montresor, then, feels that Fortunato has, by ignoring his ancestral claims, stolen his birth-right and ground him into disgrace. Yet, during the carnival, he is transformed into a purposive man to be feared. Intellectual and implacable, he designs his evil as if it were a fine art.
He facilely baits his powerful adversary with a false inducement; he lures him deeper and deeper into the sinister vaults with cajolery and simulated interest in his health. The preposterous case with which he manages Fortunato demonstrates how completely he has become the master of the man who has mastered and humiliated him.
From the beginning of the tale, when Montresor explains the evil motive behind his geniality toward Fortunato, Poe presents a picture of life in which man is bifurcated and paradoxical, dual rather than unified.
Everywhere, opposites exist in strange conjunction. Every aspect of life is potentially deceptive because it has a double face. If universal unity once existed, as Poe speculates in Eureka, such harmony no longer prevails in a world where all is only remotely akin but more immediately heterogeneous and in conflict.
In fact, both men once utter almost identical sentences to express the contrary emotions of terror and joy: Fortunato, the fortunate man, is singled out for murder. Both characters, it soon becomes evident, are intoxicated, one with wine and the other with an excess of intellectualized hatred. Nevertheless, Poe does not naively cleave the world into two irreconcilable antinomies.
After all, he really longs to be what Fortunato is and what he and his family once were. Ironically, he turns his energy and genius against himself, against the memory of his lost eminence. Once again, then, Montresor resembles Fortunato in being the dupe of his own crazed obsessions; in the truest sense, he is as much a fool as the wearer of motley.
In the final analysis, like so many Poe characters, Montresor fails because he cannot harmonize the disparate parts of his nature and, consequently, cannot achieve self-knowledge. He remains so divided against himself that, as he consummates his atrocity, it recoils upon him; the purposefulness with which he initiated his plan almost immediately distintegrates.
As his victim screams, he momentarily hesitates, trembles, and unsheathes his rapier. And lastly, his compulsively detailed rehearsal of his crime after fifty years demonstrates that it still haunts and tortures his consciousness. Montresor resembles many Poe characters who, with no self-awareness, project their own internal confusions into the external world.
But the force is a surrogate of the self, cozening man toward damnation with all the brilliant intrigue Montresor uses in destroying Fortunato. IV, October, - July,pp. Its Cultural and Historical Backgrounds.
Atlantic Monthly Press,p. Edgar Allan Poe, Boston: Obituary in New York Tribune, Vol. Reprinted in Carlson, Eric W. University of Michigan Press,pp. Fortunato understands that the trip will produce one of two results—free Amontillado or Montresor's humiliation; 2 Fortunato's passion for good wine leaves him susceptible to flattery, flattery which Montresor provides.
In French, mon tresor means my treasure. The treasure the narrator possesses is the knowledge of the perfect revenge. The Montresor Family Motto, "Nemo me impune lacessit": Fortunato comments on the Montresor family motto and emblem. The phrase means nobody harms me without being punished.
The picture above it is an allusion to the Book of Genesis in the Bible: It is symbolic of what happens to Fortunato. Fortunato has wounded Montresor's pride the snake biting the heel. Montresor kills Fortunato in the most diabolical manner The heel crushing the serpent's head. Montresor and Fortunato refer to nitre several times.
Montresor calls it "the white webwork which gleams from these cavern walls. Montresor's behavior toward Fortunato is described as follows: I continued as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.
What Montresor means is the meeting is lucky because the carnival presents an excellent time for murder. Montresor's continued efforts to talk Fortunato out of coming with him only serve to excite the latter and encourage his coming. Montresor's instructions to his servants demonstrate his mastery of human psychology: These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearanceone and all, as soon as my back was turned.
It's actually a wicked statement. He then drinks to Fortunato's "long life," which Montresor soon ends.