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The Cask of Amontillado Analysis
"The Cask of Amontillado" is an intriguing, a brilliant, non-detective short story, and a sort of psychological thriller by Edgar Allan Poe. The story takes place in some Italian town in unspecified time. The most actions of the story come in the vine vaults. The setting passes on the feeling of intoxication, false visions of true friendship. The setting can serve as a symbol for an idea of humane futility, degradation under callous society's pressure: "We had passed through walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs" (Poe, p.6).
"The Cask of Amontillado" is a third-person narration interlaced with descriptive passages and dialogues of personages. The story is told from the point of view of a criminal in the story, a murderer, an avenger. The narrator is limited. The prevailing mood in the "The Cask of Amontillado" is dramatic, pathetic and gloomy, a bit sarcastic: "No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick - on account of the dampness of the catacombs". (p.10)
The author embodies in his main character particularly and in the whole story in general a picture of how far a man's desire to avenge can go. He shows us a true sinful nature of a human, his inner malignance. Edgar Poe also uncovers society's hypocrisy and insidiousness:
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 (p.3).
There are two characters in the story, to my mind: they are an antagonist Montresor though he is a main hero, and Fortunato is a protagonist because the narrator's principal aim was to revenge his Italian friend and Fortunato didn't even suspect of it.
The premise reveals the true motive of commitment a crime by a main hero from the very beginning of the story: "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge" (p.3). We don't hold the key to the riddle of Fortunato's deed; it is only a play of our fantasy to guess what harmful or offensive things he could have done against the narrator.
The exposition shows us the supposedly unintentional meeting of two old friends, Fortunato and the story-teller. As the story unfolds, two men appear in the vaults, so, the development of the story is the movement of Montresor and Fortunato through wine cellars.
The climax of the story is when the malicious plan of the main hero to wall his protagonist up in the crypt comes into action.
There are no flashbacks, surprise ending in the story, but the foreshadowing of mischief is present: "At length I would be avenged" (p.3).
The story was a bit suspenseful because we have a presentiment about what will happen in the vaults and are looking forward to the inevitable denouement of the story that is the last word that has been swallowed by this true connoisseur of good wine, in his endeavor to utter a mere sound, his last breath: "But to these words I hearken in vain for a reply" (p.10.).
In the conclusion, it is necessary to emphasize that the whole story is one of the great samples of literary masterpieces of symbolism among Poe's works. All the symbols that are available in the "Cask of Amontillado" are meaningful. With the help of them the author embodies a true picture of the society of that time and uncovers humane vices.