Unfortunately, No One Wins

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Quinn Fitzpatrick
Mrs. Bryant-Breaux
English IV
26 March 2013
Unfortunately, No One Wins
A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated -- I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, I began to grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied.

- Montresor
In the passage above, narrated by Montresor, the frightening post-murder scene is depicted from Edgar Allen Poe’s tale “The Cask of Amontillado.” Poe does an excellent job portraying the horror felt by the captured Fortunato as well as the nervous yet deceivingly relieving sensation felt by Montresor. Poe, born in Boston, January 19, 1809, is famous for his tragic and disturbing writings about death and the supernatural (Quinn qtd. in Poe). This knack for writing brilliant yet horrifying stories helped Poe to write many famous short stories including “The Cask of Amontillado.” In this masterfully written tale lies an immense amount of hidden irony and context clues which contribute to the overall creepiness of the characters as well as the storyline. To the careless reader, many of these hidden gems will never be discovered; however, upon a careful read, one will discover the truly dark side of Edgar Allen Poe’s writing. “The Cask of Amontillado” contains tremendous situational irony, includes many clues to the possible motives of a mysterious murder, and leaves an unanswered question to the mystery of the murderer’s closure that instills a sense of horror and uneasiness.

Poe’s classic writing style is evident on account of the immense amount of hidden irony. In “Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado,’” critic Roger Platizky notes that during the time when the story takes place, live burial was “a common theme” and took place mainly by medical mistake. While Fortunato is being buried, he has bells attached to his jester costume, and Montresor is dressed as an executioner (Platizky 207). Ironically, live burial was used as a form of capital punishment, seemingly fitting with Montresor’s odd attire (Platizky 207). Also, bells were commonly attached to dead bodies, so they could alert graveyard attendees if someone was buried alive (Platizky 207). Unfortunately for Fortunato, his jester outfit only made him look foolish instead of saving his life. The somewhat insulting way Fortunato died is characteristic of Poe’s horrific writing style. The lack of remorse shown for an usually sad event instills a sense of creepiness and horror in the reader’s conscience. The hectic backdrop of carnival season also adds a strong element of irony into the plot. In “The Motive for Murder In ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ By Edgar Allen Poe,” critic Elena Baraban notes that Montresor possibly picked this time of the year to murder Fortunato because Montresor’s unsuspecting victim would have already been intoxicated and, thus, easily dispatched (172). Barban notes that the “madness of the carnival season” (Poe 667) is an important element “because carnival is not simply a temporary substitution of normal order by chaos, but its inversion” (172). During the carnival season, the rich could wear attire that would make them look like lower class citizens (Barban 172). By murdering Fortunato while he was dressed as a peasant, Montresor makes his unsuspecting adversary into an even bigger fool (Barban 172). In a sense, Montresor uses this usually celebratory time of the year to further humiliate a man who has caused him “[the] thousand injuries” (Poe 666). The clever and hidden mockery Poe adds to this tale instills an eerie feeling of ironic pleasure to a sinister murder which inspires shock and fear. Adding to the eeriness of the story, Montresor’s unclear motives beg the question of the possible reasons for the seemingly unjustified murder of Fortunato. Literary analyst Patrick White...
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