10 April 2014
Hell under the Carnival
“The Cask of Amontillado” is one of many Edgar Allan Poe’s tales that contains terror and tragedy. Poe uses setting as a main tool to give a dark sense to the story by using two main locations that contrast with each other; one represent life, and the other one represents death. In the story, he uses the carnival to represent joy and Montresor’s vault to represent sorrow. The surface region, full of celebration and merriment, contrasts dramatically with the subterranean one, marked by gloom and horror (Mustafa). Genuinely Montresor, the main character, takes advantage of this to get revenge on his acquaintance, Fortunato, who has irreparably insulted him. First, Montresor use the carnival to disguise his true motives, but later as the two men walk through the vault, the reader can foreshadow what is about to happen.
The story takes place at an Italian Villa, around the thirteenth century.
Montresor uses the carnival season as an opportunity to get his revenge on Fortunato. He chooses this setting because of its cast away of social order. In addition, Rehana Whatley suggests, “The pre-lenten carnival helps [Montresor] to gather his evil rationale into a plan to entice Fortunato to his death for injuries and an insult” (58). While the carnival normally suggests social interaction, Poe twists its festive abandon, turning the carnival into a dark sensation. This illusion keeps repeating through the whole story. Not only does Montresor use the carnival to not get caught, but also as a hook to get Fortunato to do what he wants. He uses wine, Fortunato’s weakness, to make Fortunato interested in going to his vault. The reader can confirm this when Montresor tells Fortunato that he has bought a pipe of Amontillado, and then Fortunato responds “‘…Amontillado?... Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival?’” (Poe 543). This response suggests that Amontillado is not common in that season, and Fortunato wants to know if Montresor is telling the truth, or he is just a fool. Montresor knows how he would respond after hearing this and that a spark of curiosity would start inside of him.
After they leave the carnival, they go to Montresor’s vault.
This is when a dark feeling starts emerging. When they get there, Montresor narrates, “[We] stood together on the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors” (Poe 544). There they pass walls of bones, which foreshadows the story descending to the underworld. The two men walking through the underground vault seems like a trip to hell, where sorrow and pain awaits them. They leave the land of the living, the carnival, and now both are in the land of the dead, heading to a place where death rules. As they walk through the setting, evil and darkness is the theme. Furthermore, to increase the suspense in the story, Poe often applies foreshadowing. The fact that Montresor knows how his plot is going to end makes it possible for him to play little ironic tricks on Fortunato (May 1). For instance, when Fortunato says, “’…I shall not die of a cough,’” Montresor replies, “’True-true…’” (Poe 545) because he knows he will kill him. Montresor’s family’s coat of arms also foreshadows what may happen. It features a foot crushing a persistent serpent. This leads the reader think that Montresor will ultimately crush Fortunato after all those biting insults. However, Poe use this as irony because at the end the opposite happens. When the two men reach the end of the passage, Montresor chains Fortunato to a stone