The Cask of Amontillado is a short literary work wrote in 1846. From the same author that brought us The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allan Poe. This short story also has a Gothic nature. Edgar Allan Poe, was born in the early eighteen-hundreds. His accomplishments as a poet and author are wide and numerous. He is highly regarded as a central attributed to the American romanticism period. Since Poe was born in 1809, he had the perfect stage to become a Romantic period figure, as Romanticism was at its height from 1800-1850 after having originated in Europe and moving to the young United States. The Romantic period of literature was solidified by an emphasis on strong emotions with a connection to nature. Romanticism examined all parts of nature, including death. Thus, came the motivation for the below analysis of The Cask of Amontilado.
Many historians agree that the potential shift toward romanticism was a direct result of the industrial revolution in which many felt we were straying away from traditional values of working land with our hands. Whatever the cause, it is no doubt Edgar Allan Poe became a truly predominant American figure. His works of literature are still extremely well respected to this date.
The story, in summary, is a story about revenge and death. Even the title of the work foreshadows the dark events that will unfold. In archaic form, a cask equates to a modern day casket, or resting place. Therefore, the reader immediately knows death is a part of the story. In the introduction of the story, the narrator discovers a character, Fortunato (Fortunato translates to English as “fourtainte”, this literary irony truly adds to the story), has been insulting him. The narrator preys on Fortunato’s weakness to consume alcohol (wine). The narrator lures Fortunato into a wine cellar, which also doubles as a catacomb (In ancient Europe it was common for wine cellars to also contain crypts for family members dating back centuries in the same home.). It is important to again note that the character, Fortunato, has a name which translates to lucky or fortunate.
Nothing about his experience with the narrator will become fortunate or lucky, again creating a sense of irony. The Cask of Amontilado has several aspects of irony, all of which strongly support the penultimate progression of the story; the author’s use of irony strongly supports the story’s theme and plot development. (It is my personal belief that Fortunato’s craving for alcohol represents man’s addiction to unworldly things, just as the cellar symbolizes a form of purgatory.)
Additionally, the way in which the two main characters are dressed gives the reader a prediction on what is to come. The narrator is dressed in dark clothing, which symbolizes death. Fortunato, ironically, is dressed as a clown, in bright colors. This is possibly the most ironic point in the story. This shows the reader that he is completely unaware of the events that are about to unfold, eventually resulting in his death. Fortunato had been attending a carnival, which accounts for his bright clothing. The light mood Fortunato carried with him into the cellar serves as a further indication of his unawareness of the coming events. Perhaps Fortunato is unaware the narrator knows he has been talking bad about him, which is the whole premise for his revenge.
The story also has several ironic quotes, not just ronic actions or instances. One important quote occurs when Fortunato begins to cough: ‘Enough,’ he said; ‘the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.’ ‘True—true,” The narrator knows very well why Fortunato is coughing. The cause of his respiratory distress is from sulfur deposits within the cellar. That combined with the poor circulation of air is causing his breathing problems. Instead of heeding the warning from his coughing, Fortunato agrees that a sip of wine that will soothe his throat. Ironically yet again, that which he craves to be a connoisseur of so badly will end his life. Fortunato lays claim that he is an expert in good tasting wine, a claim that will ultimately aid in his death. This too serves as a foreshadowing detail of what is about to unfold. The reader knows the intentions the narrator has planned for Fortunato, death. He shall indeed die of a cough.
One additional ironic quote occurs as they enter the cellar. “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 narrator identifies to us very plainly his plans to immolate Fortunato. Obviously the narrator has a charming appeal to him. Who else could connive face to face with someone, only to kill them seconds later. Still, as Fortunato begins to struggle to breath, due to the sulfur, he remains oblivious to his fate just a few mere moments away. He now sits in an intoxicated state, struggling to breath, still clearly unaware of his fate to be.
In conclusion, this story is another classical work by Edgar Allan Poe, and reflects his ongoing theme of death and Gothic romanticism. Poe displayed his ability to master all types of literary irony within this particular work; Edgar Allen Poe is an expert at the literary use of irony to convey the plot throughout the majority of his stories. The several aforementioned accounts of irony serve as a way to convey Poe’s theme of death and revenge. Had the story not used this literary element/tool, it would have not been as effective in conveying its overall theme and message. The use of irony truly does progress the story. It is therefore, due the culmination of his expert literary approach, his use of irony, word choice, and other literary elements, we are left with a story that truly conveys artistic ability. Furthermore, this story truly does reflect the sentiments of the Romantic literature period.