Montresor's Unsuccessful Revenge: Subtle Irony in "Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe Essay

Words: 1934
Pages: 8

Throughout his literary career, Edgar Allan Poe applied irony to his stories. By doing this, his disturbing and odd tales became stories of mental and psychological twists and terror that trouble readers. Poe uses irony in “The Tell-Tale Heart” to increase mental tension by making the murderer in the story confess the crime that he so carefully planned. The man goes mad by fault of his own conscious and if he had not confessed, the murder would have been a success. Just as in “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Poe utilizes irony to amplify the horror and tension in “The Cask of Amontillado”. In “The
Cask of Amontillado”, a murderer, Montresor, plans a clever revenge scheme using many small parts to bring the plan together. Montresor’s
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Knowing this, Montresor also knows that there is nothing that can be done to fix the failure that has become his revengeful scheme.

After Fortunato’s death, Montresor starts to feel remorse, but cannot admit it. “My heart grew sick – on account of the dampness of the catacombs” (Poe 99). Montresor’s pause after he says his heart grew sick suggests that he actually felt some kind of remorse or trouble about the crime and that he is unable to directly admit that he feels remorse. Engel proposes that “…while sustaining this obsession during those years, might well be explained by his unconscious fear of the guilt he would, once found out, consciously have to accept. And having to accept it might drive him insane” (Engel 62). Montresor’s rule of revenge, that the avenger must feel victorious about the crime, does not apply to him. His heart grew sick because of the crime, but he makes himself doubt that he is feeling remorse. Over a span of fifty years, Montresor has obsessed over every single detail of that night.
Engel says that the reason he remembers so much of the night is because he feels unconscious guilt for his crime. Montresor’s revenge is a failure because, as one of his rules states, the avenger must feel triumphant about the crime, but Montresor feels remorse and/or disappointment. By blaming the sickness in his heart on the “dampness of the catacombs”, Montresor subconsciously says that he feels guilty, but avoids outright admitting