One of the most famous authors in American history is Edgar Allen Poe, thanks to his intricate and unsettling short stories and poems. One of the strongest aspects of Poe’s writing style is the allure and complexity of the narrator of the story. These narrators, ranging from innocent bystanders to psychotic murderers, add depth to such a short story and really allow Poe to explore the themes of death and murder which he seems to have an unhealthy obsession towards. Furthermore, he uses these narrators to give a different perspective in each of his many works and to really unsettle the reader by what is occurring throughout the story. The narrators, whether an innocent witness of death as in “The Fall of the House of Usher” or a twisted murderer as in “The Cask of Amontillado” are used by Poe to discuss the themes of death and murder within these stories and, depending on their point of view, give a different take on such a despicable act such as murder.
In order to fully understand Poe’s use of the narrator the two previously mentioned stories must be summarized. “The Cask of Amontillado” is a tale about the narrator, Montresor, who desires to act revenge on his acquaintance Fortunato. He lures Fortunato into his basement in order for Fortunato to examine a rare wine called an Amontillado. While in the deep crypt Montresor offers Fortunato more and more wine so that by the time Fortunato gets to the area where the cask is kept he is heavily intoxicated. Montresor then chains Fortunato to a stone and begins to build a wall, trapping Fortunato inside the crypt to die while Fortunato screams and pleads for his life. Montresor, hearing his pleas for mercy and life, ignores them and continues to build the wall knowing that no one will ever find the body of the unfortunate Fortunato.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” which revolves around a nameless narrator who goes to visit Roderick Usher, a boyhood friend who has been feeling very physically and emotionally ill and requested the narrators presence. Roderick lives in this dark and gloomy, run-down house which has been in his family for many years with his twin sister. Soon after arriving the twin sister is said to be dead for she has apparently no pulse. She had been suffering from an unknown illness and Roderick decides to bury her in the basement of the house. Over the next few days the narrator fully believes that Roderick has fully become mentally insane. One night while reading to his friend, the narrator hear screams, which Roderick admits to also hearing. Roderick then exclaims that they are the screams of his sister. As he says this, his sister, who had been buried alive, in her last moments of life, charges after Roderick who dies of fright.
Now that each of the two stories have been summarized, more analysis of the narrators is required. In “The Cask of Amontillado” the narrator is s cold-blooded, merciless killer who enacts a premeditated plan to kill his acquaintance. “It must be understood, that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good-will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation” (Poe 231). This passage which Montresor states to the reader in the beginning of the story proves how premeditated and vile the narrator truly is. Here Montresor explains his true hatred for Fortunato. He acts as if there is nothing wrong with their relationship to lull him into a false sense of security and to take him by surprise later when he completes his sinister plan. The line “ I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation” shows that point as he continues to act the same way as he did before, smiling just as he always does to fool Fortunato. A statement like this shows the intelligence and thorough planning of Montresor giving a whole new meaning to the phrase keep your...
Cited: Poe, Edgar A. Complete Tales & Poems. Edison, NJ: Castle Book, 2001.
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