Montresor's Unsuccessful Revenge: Subtle Irony in "Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe

Topics: Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask of Amontillado, The Tell-Tale Heart Pages: 5 (1948 words) Published: November 16, 2010
Throughout his literary career, Edgar Allan Poe applied
irony to his stories. By doing this, his disturbing and odd tales became stories of mental and psychological twists and terror that trouble readers. Poe uses irony in “The Tell-Tale Heart” to increase mental tension by making the murderer in the story confess the crime that he so carefully planned. The man goes mad by fault of his own conscious and if he had not confessed, the murder would have been a success. Just as in “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Poe utilizes irony to amplify the horror and tension in “The Cask of Amontillado”. In “The Cask of Amontillado”, a murderer, Montresor, plans a clever revenge scheme using many small parts to bring the plan together. Montresor’s plan is to make the person he is avenging to feel guilt and die in pain, but in the end, Montresor is the man feeling guilty and living a life of pain. In both those stories, Poe uses irony against the protagonist, making them lose their mental state. In “The Tell-Tale Heart”, the murderer is perfectly calm through out the story until Poe causes him to have a mental breakdown. Also, in “Cask of Amontillado”, Montresor is perfectly calm and relaxed while telling his tale, but, unlike in “The Tell- Tale Heart”, Montresor does not openly break down because of guilt, but he breaks down because he has realized that his revenge was a failure. Montresor instead shows small details that convey his realization of the failure. A reader may view the revenge as one of success, since Montresor did, in fact, kill Fortunato. However, small details that Poe adds in the story indicate that Montresor’s crime was unsuccessful and by making the crime seem unsuccessful, Poe accomplishes using irony against the protagonist. In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado", Poe uses irony to convey Montresor's crime, while using another layer to undermine Montresor's revenge.

Montresor relies on sins and judgment of God to complete the murder of Fortunato, but Montresor lacks awareness that by using the sins and judgment God, his is committing a more terrible sin. Montresor knew that “He had a weak point - this Fortunato - …He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine” (Poe 94). Fortunato prides himself in his knowledge of fine wines and with this knowledge, Fortunato gets drunk. Knowing this, Montresor takes advantage of and uses Fortunato’s weaknesses to benefit the revenge. Fortunato’s drunkenness and pride play large factors in the planning of Montresor’s crime. With those sins, Montresor could lead Fortunato to the niche in the catacombs and wall him up without Fortunato’s consciousness intact. Then, slowly, according the Montresor’s plan, Fortunato would sober up and realize what has happened to him and why it happened and Montresor would pride himself while listening to Fortunato’s woe. Instead of this happening, Fortunato immediately sobers up and does not realize what has happened to him. Montresor’s wants God to damn Fortunato because of the insults Fortunato perpetrated upon Montresor. Cooney proposes that Montresor uses some sins of God – pride, drunkenness and vanity - to commit the most terrible sin – murder – and Montresor does not understand the irony he brings upon himself (Cooney 62). Montresor deludes himself into thinking he was clever and that God will justify the crime. Montresor does not recognize that he is to be damned by murdering Fortunato. Fortunato rests in peace, while Montresor lives a damned life of obsession.

Another irony against Montresor is Fortunato’s failure to realize the insult made by him. After walling up Fortunato, Montresor listens and “…hearkened in vain for a reply. [Montresor] grew impatient…No answer” (Poe 99). Montresor waits and calls aloud to Fortunato yet there is nothing in response and this concerns Montresor. Montresor cannot stand why his calls go unanswered. The lack of response from Fortunato is one of the causes of Montresor’s obsession of the crime. As Jacoby...
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