The Cask of Amontillado - Irony and Symbolism

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It is Edgar Allan Poe's intense use of symbolism and irony throughout the Cask of Amontillado that establishes the short story as an indeed interesting candidate worthy of thorough analysis. The skillful use of these devices are utilized by the author to create this horrific and suspenseful masterpiece.

The Cask of Amontillado is a horror short story, which revolves around the themes of revenge and pride. The plot involves two men: Montresor, the narrator, who is an Italian aristocrat seeking revenge against the second main character: Fortunato, a proud man that boasts about his conoisseurship of wines and who finally walks to his own death.

Irony is a manner of expression through which words or events convey a reality different from and even opposite to appearance or expectation. The use of such device in the story provides it with humour and wit, and makes the piece more sophisticated. The sustained irony is detected through style, tone and the clear use of exaggeration of Montresor, the narrator.

From the very beginning we notice the apparition of irony in the story. The very name Fortunato would clearly imply that this is a man of good fortune, when the actual case is that he is about to suffer a mostly untimely demise: the end of his life. The setting in which the story takes place again shows an ironic element. It is during Venice's Carnival that the characters meet. Carnival is supposed to be a time of celebration and happiness for everybody. However, in the tale it is a time for revenge and death. The atmosphere changes drastically when the two protagonists leave the gaiety of carnival for the gloomy and desolate catacombs beneath Montresor's palazzo. We learn from the narrator that when he first meets Fortunato the latter has apparently been drinking and is dressed in many colours, resembling a jester. His costume suggests that he will be the one playing the fool. On the other hand Montresor is dressed in a black-coloured cloak and has his face covered with a black mask. At this point one can mention the presence of symbols: the black mask and outfit might be a representation of Death or the devil. Such figure foreshadows the events taking place later that night in the damp catacombs.

The way the narrator treats his enemy is one of the clearest examples for ironic elements. When the characters meet, Montresor realises that Fortunato is afflicted with a severe cold, nevertheless he makes a point of him looking "remarkably well". Montresor acts in the most natural and friendly way towards the man object of his revenge, and even praises his "friend's" knowledge in the subject of wines. Also upon their meeting, Montresor begins a psychological manipulation of Fortunato. He claims that he needs his knowledge to ascertain that the wine he has purchased is indeed Amontillado. Furthermore, he acknowledges that Fortunato is engaged in another business (i.e.: the celebration of carnival), so he would go to Luchresi, who, one is made to believe, is a competitor of Fortunato's. To these words, Fortunato is forced by his pride to accompany Montresor to the vaults (where the Amontillado is kept), dissipate his doubts and also to prove his higher status than Luchresi as a connoisseur of wine. In fact, during their way down under in the catacombs, the twisted mind of Montresor, dares to give Fortunato the chance to go back, due to the almost unbearable dampness and foulness rampant in the vaults and Fortunato's state of health. The narrator clearly knows about the stubborn nature of Fortunato, and is positive that his pride would not allow him to retreat. Thus, Fortunato continues his journey towards death by his own will.

"The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre." "Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado!" ( P.571)

Another memorable lines in the story are given by Montresor in response to Fortunato saying, "I...
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