Verbal Irony in Edgar Allan Poe's “the Cask of Amontillado”

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Pauline Faivre
Ec, Spring session
Teacher : Philip Lindholm
21th April 2013

the cleverness of words

Verbal Irony in Edgar Allan Poe's “The Cask of Amontillado”

The protagonist of “The Cask of Amontillado”, Montresor, appears to be friendly and trustworthy although he actually manipulates Fortunato in an extremely clever way in order to take revenge on him.Thus, Montresor's technique consists in hiding his real intentions using the ambiguous and manipulative power of rhetoric, by telling one thing while meaning the opposite, with the purpose of obtaining his desired revenge. Montresor knows to what extent language can be used to manipulate certain people. His cleverness consists in understanding a person’s personality, and using this knowledge to manipulate them by rhetorical means. Montresor, in order to achieve his aims, tries to manipulate everyone around him, even people that have nothing to do with his aim, such as his servants. “I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back turned” (Poe 1594). This lines provide a clear example of the way in which Montresor uses verbal irony, a style of irony in which a persons “says one thing and means another” or “uses words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of the literal meaning”. He commands his servants not to stir from the house while he is absent, in order to obtain the exact opposite reaction from them: he wants them to leave the house so that he can go into the palazzo alone and be free of his actions. The way in which Montresor explains his strategy demonstrates that everything in the story is precisely calculated, and clearly shows the character's ingenuity. Every word he pronounces is thought and chosen. He cleverly uses words to gain what he wants. Montresor does not leave place for improvisation so...
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