The Cask of Amontillado

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Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," is a story of revenge to the highest degree. This theme is evident in the first sentence, "the thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge." The suggestion of vengeance is repeated several more times in the opening paragraph. Poe gives us a view at premeditated murder from the details in his story told through the eyes of Montresor. While he carefully removes unnecessary parts of the story, Poe elaborately and vividly relates this bone-chilling tale of revenge while keeping his audience waiting for more. The theme of Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" is reprisal and he uses all the elements of fiction (plot, setting, characters, and theme) in illustrating this theme to his readers.

In the beginning of the "The Cask of Amontillado," the reader learns that Fortunato has insulted the main character and narrator of the story, whose name, Montresor, we do not learn until the very end of story. However, we purposely are never told just how Montresor was offended by Fortunato. Montresor states that he "must not only punish, but punish with impunity." Montresor wants revenge for Forunato's wrongdoing, but he does not want to be punished for what he will do to Fortunato. Montresor's innate desire causes him to thoroughly plan for his former friend's murder, but he is sensible and desires that his deeds will not damage him or his reputation. This is mainly because Montresor believes he is fully justified in killing Fortunato for his insults and thus should not be punished for what he believes is doing the right thing.

It is clear from the very first paragraph that what Montresor has planned for Fortunato is horrific, but ‘justified' death. Montresor states "A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong." This line explains how Montresor feels about revenge, that it is necessary for him to kill Fortunato for the insult.

The setting of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" is also very important in telling of the story. The tale first takes place in the evening during the carnival season. Fortunato enters the story, presumably intoxicated from enjoying the festivities a little too much, and therefore, according to Montresor, offers him a warm greeting. The story soon changes when Montresor takes Fortunato to his dark and mysterious crypt fueling an atmosphere saturated in evil. Montresor has planned for his reprisal to be enacted during the carnival season for several reasons. Not only due to the disguises that people wear, but also because it allows for him to have an excuse for his servants not being in the house. This is important because their absences would otherwise alert Fortunato to something being not quite right. Furthermore, Montresor knows that his ‘friend' while be drinking and that in light of the festivities, Fortunato will not turn down more and more alcohol. Montresor is planning on Fortunato being drunk for his plan to work in the way that he has intended.

Soon after the first scene at the carnival, Montresor leads Fortunato down to his catacombs to taste his Amontillado, which he believes to be counterfeit. While down in the catacombs, Fortunato remarks that the catacombs are quite extensive, then Montresor replies that his family was "a great numerous family." Fortunato asks about his coat of arms, to which Montresor replies "Nemo me impune lacessit" or no one assails me with impunity. Montresor obviously lives by this motto as seen by the actions that he takes for Fortunato's insults.

Poe uses a great deal of ironic elements in his writings and this is especially true in "The Cask of Amontillado." Even when naming his characters, Poe creates names that are satirical. In Italian ‘fortunato' means ‘fortunate', which Fortunato...
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