The Unreliable Narration of Montresor:
An Analysis on Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Story
The Cask of Amontillado
In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Cask of Amontillado, a theme of gothic horror is present, due partly to the ironic narration of Montresor and the setting. Poe creates Montresor as one of a sociopathic nature, in which he jests with his victim, Fortunato, up until the moments of his death. Montresor’s narration however is unreliable in that the reader does not know whether the victim of his revenge is deserved.
Poe introduces the reader to the classic horror beginning of a ‘dark and stormy night’, describing “[an] evening during the…madness of the carnival season…” (page 1). Carnival is a time when things are not as they seem, with masked identities. Shortly thereafter, the character Fortunato is introduced, described wearing “a tight-fitting parti-striped dress and…conical cap and bells” (page 1). He is like a foolishly intoxicated jester, and one who can be easily manipulated by Montresor. The sinister atmosphere continues, as Montresor begins to lead Fortunato towards hell, in which “…Fortunato possessed himself of my arm…” (page 2) as Montresor wears “…a mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaire closely…” (page 2). The fact that Poe describes Montresor as wearing a black mask and coat brings forward a sense of death, and is reminiscent of the grim reaper. At the entrance of the catacombs, Montresor removes “from their sconces two flambeaux…” (page 2), finally establishing the time period Poe is describing. Flambeaux, or better known as ‘torches’, was most used in mid-18th century Europe, deriving from the French word, ‘flambe’ or ‘flame’. The reader can assume then that this macabre tale takes place around this time, the era in which horrific literature was in fashion. The slow descent into the dark hellishness of the catacombs is the most important setting as the story progresses. Poe refers to the area as a ‘crypt’, which brings to mind...
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