A friend is someone that should be trusted, but what happens when that trust no longer exists? In “The Cask of Amontillado” written by Edgar Allan Poe, Fortunato is about to find the answer to this question. On the surface Montresor seems friendly with Frortunato, but deep down he feels nothing but hate for him. Could this hatred have an irrationality that only Montresor understands? In different ways, both of these men are proud and affluent, yet both have downfalls that will lead to a tragic ending. Edgar Allan Poe’s use of language contributes to the understanding of the dynamic between the two men. Although the two men are perceived differently, they both want the same thing; to satisfy the taste for something that has been long overdue. Poe has an eloquent way of reproducing great literary elements in the story, the theme of deception and revenge, is justified with the use of Irony and symbolism.
“THE Thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (Poe 1). The first sentence supports the theme of revenge that is present throughout the story. One example that strengthens this belief occurs when Montresor tells Fortunato about the pipe of Amontillado that he has recently purchased. Fortunato’s surprised response is not necessarily directed towards Montresor, as he believes it is, but at the thought that the wine has been bought in the midst of a carnival. However, Montresor takes this response as yet another insult to his person; subsequently, reassuring himself that the plan for revenge is reasonable. In order to accomplish his revenge, Montresor will use deception. He smiles at Fortunato even though his thoughts are evil, and he has plans of destruction. Montresor uses Luchresi in order to play with Fortunato’s head. The man, with the extensive knowledge of wine, will have to follow him to prove that he is a better choice. Montresor does not care about Fortunato or his health, yet, ironically, he speaks in a compassionate and concerning manner towards Fortunato.
Gothic fiction could not be complete without the element of irony. In “The Cask of Amontillado” irony, both dramatic and verbal, is present. According to Charles E. May, a Scholar and professor of English at California State University, “In fact, from the very beginning, every action and bit of dialogue is characterized as being just the opposite of what is explicitly stated” (Magill’s par. 1). Two poignant example of dramatic irony occurs when Montresor approaches the intoxicated Fortunado, who is dressed as a court jester, during the evening of the carnival. Montresor happily capitalizes on his friend’s state. Adding to the dramatic effect, Poe names the character Fortunato, which means, one of great fortune. The irony becomes apparent when Fortunato’s unfortunate fate is revealed. Poe’s ingenious use of verbal irony is witnessed when, in a memorable moment in the story, Motresor suggests to his friend that he should head home due to his cough, Fortunato’s responds “I shall not die of a cough.” Montresor’s knowingly replies, True –true.” (Poe 3). In another use of verbal irony, Fortunato uses the word “Ignoramus” to describe Luchresi; however, it is he who is indeed foolishly ignorant of what is happening around him, and what is going to happen to him. Montresor has provided Frotuato numerous times with the freedom to go; however, due to his intoxication, Fortunato fails to see the signs Montresor has provided for him.
Poe’s use of symbols in “The Cask of Amontillado” is apparent with Montresor’s crest, which depicts a serpent biting the heel of the human stepping on it. The crest can be considered to represent the relationship between Montresor and Fortunato. Although the serpent is being stepped on, it is the serpent that will eventually cause harm. In addition, the motto on the crest, which reads, “Nemo me impune laccessit.” (Poe 4) reinforces that those who insult him will pay. The title, serves as a symbolic element in the story “The Cask of Amontillado” has both a literal and a figurative meaning. Cask means the container in which wine is stored, and Amontillado is a wine that Fortunato is longing to taste. Due to Fortunato’s curiosity, he ends up in the place where his body will be stored in a cask made especially for him. The Amontillado has a specific symbolic meaning for Montresor, success. By him mentioning the Amontillado, he was successful in capturing Fortunato, and carrying out his plan of revenge towards the man who he believes has insulted him.
Montresor has finally been avenged; however, after fifty years, he is unable to let go of the spirit of Fortunato. His confessional proves the logic that, although he was successful with his plan for revenge, he has not been able to live in peace. The theme of “The Cask of Amontillado” is that of revenge and the deceiving way one man will accomplish his goal. Poe’s use of irony and humor adds to the darkness of the storyline. Montresor’s crest and motto are a symbol of his pride. Montresor knows that if he does not go through with the destruction of Fortunato, he has not fully avenged himself or his family. Montresor plans Fortunato’s demise through the use of a symbolic figure, a cask of wine. Unfortunately, in the end, the cask symbolizes the place where Fortunato’s body will rest. Poe does an excellent job of conveying the theme of the story, and bringing forth distinctive examples of literary elements that are meant for gothic fiction.