How Poe Observes the Characteristics of the American Gothic Literature Tradition in “The Cask of Amontillado”

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Andrew Hoskinson / Chris Pearcey / Lane Todoroff
Ms. Seiler
ENC1102, Period 4
26 September 2013
How Poe Observes the Characteristics of the American Gothic Literature Tradition in “The Cask of Amontillado” Edgar Allan Poe was destined to a life of darkness and insanity. As the son of traveling performers, Poe was abandoned to the horrors of the world at a young age. Poe is generally regarded as the father of American Gothic Literature, an example to such authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. The stories that Poe inscribed are prevalent in modern times, creating genres such as horror films and science fiction movies. "The Cask of Amontillado" is one of Poe's most memorable short stories, that epitomizes the American Gothic Literature Tradition through the dark narrative. In this short story Montresor, the protagonist, has a vendetta against Fortunato, a man that has wronged him thousands of times. To carry out his revenge, Montresor proceeds to lure Fortunato into the catacombs of his cellar, promising him amontillado, a rare wine. In the end, Fortunato is bound to a wall, while simultaneously being entombed by Montresor. The symbolism, settings, and narrator employed by Poe in "The Cask of Amontillado" are the stereotypical elements to Southern American Gothic Literature To begin, Edgar Allan Poe utilizes his patriarchal mastery of symbolism to adhere to the characteristics of The American Gothic Literature Tradition in “The Cask of Amontillado.” Poe uses the symbol of Fortunato’s attire to describe his personality as foolhardy and gullible. He adorns “a tight fitting party-striped dress and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells” (Poe 1). He was dressed as a jester; this symbolic representation portrays Fortunato as a fool. Trent Lorcher touts “This is Montresor's way of humiliating Fortunato further for the anger he has caused Montresor. Montresor wants Fortunato to die like the fool that he is “(Lorcher 1). Additionally, the amontillado is a symbol within itself for deceit. Amontillado is a rare and delightful wine, a significant temptation to one who is a wine connoisseur such as Fortunato. The amontillado symbolizes Montresor’s deceit of Fortunato; at the mere mention of the amontillado by Montresor, Fortunato exclaims “To your vaults!” (Poe 1). Lorcher justifies this “Fortunato's passion for good wine leaves him susceptible to flattery, flattery which Montresor provides” (Lorcher 1). Another symbol is the way in which Montresor disposes of Fortunato, which depicts Montresor’s hatred and scorn for Fortunato. Montresor murders Fortunato in the most unusual fashion, he walls him up within a dungeon. In killing Fortunato in this humiliating method, it signifies Montresor’s true detestation for Fortunato and the want to dispatch of him in a humbling methodology. Poe describes this burial in such a manner: “I forced the last stone into position and plastered it up…. for the half of a century no mortal has disturbed [his bones]” (Poe 1). R.J. Russ supports this assumption by stating: “The way he actually killed Fortunato was torturous and cruel. This proves how angry he was at Fortunato… Montresor [did] it because he wanted Fortunato to die in an [embarrassing] fashion that Montresor believed he deserved” (Russ 1). From Fortunato’s wardrobe, to the deceitful wine, to the mode that Fortunato was killed; Poe uses these symbols to observe the characteristics of the American Gothic Literature. As well as using symbolism to adhere to the elements of the American Gothic Literature tradition, Poe also delves into the twisted thoughts of a vengeful narrator. Poe uses the dynamics of a tortuous plan, an irrational storyteller, and honor of aforementioned Montresor to craft “The Cask of Amontillado” into an American Gothic classic. Montresor tells the story of his revenge against Fortunato nearly fifty years after the live burial. He is proud of his intricate plan to take vengeance. Through...
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