Edgar Poe’s short story The Cask of Amontillado illustrates some of the main techniques developed by this author in order to create a sense of suspense that engages the readers. In this case, much attention should be paid to the use of foreshadowing and irony. They are particularly relevant when Poe depicts the conversation between Fortunato and Montresor. To a great extent, these literary elements are useful for depicting an unsuspecting victim. Moreover, this short story is remarkable because it highlights the cold-bloodedness and irrationality of the murderer who does not even understand the cause of his moral suffering. To some degree, this callousness of the protagonist is the most horrifying element of this short story. These are the main questions that should be discussed in greater detail.
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It is important to mention that the story is told from the perspective of a person who intends to kill one of his close acquaintances because of some alleged insult. When speaking about foreshadowing, one should speak about those literary elements that can help readers predict the development of the plot. In turn, irony can be defined as the rhetoric device, which shows that there is a difference between the literal sense of words or utterances and their true meaning. In each case, the role of these literary elements becomes evident only when the readers learn about the horrible death of the victim. However, at first, they do not attract much attention, and their role is not quite clear.
For instance, the name of this victim is Fortunato, and it can be translated as fortunate or lucky (Poe. 2008, p. 85). However, the readers eventually learn that he is buried alive, and they understand that this person is in no way fortunate or lucky. Thus, his name can be viewed as an example of verbal irony used by the author. One should keep in mind that premature burial was the widespread cause of fear in the nineteenth century, and this theme is explored in other short stories written by Poe (Platizky, 1999, p. 207). In turn, despite his name, the victim has to face the most horrible death that Poe could imagine. This is one of the aspects that should be singled out.
One can provide some eloquent examples of foreshadowing. In particular, Montresor calls himself a “mason”; in his turn, Fortunato immediately thinks about people who belong to the secret fraternal organization (Poe, 2008, p. 89). It does not occur to him that, in this case, this word can be literally interpreted because Montresor will eventually immure Fortunato alive. Montresor shows that he holds a trowel, but the victim thinks that he is making a very awkward joke. In this way, Poe gives clues about the outcome of the story. It should be mentioned that the use of foreshadowing and irony became very widespread among later generations of writers who created suspense narratives.
Additionally, Montresor drinks to the “long life” of Fortunato, yet at this point, this person is adamant in his decision to kill his acquaintance. It should be mentioned that the victim makes several comments that can offend Montresor. For instance, he says that he does not recollect Montresor’s coat of arms (Poe, 2008, p, 85).
The victim unintentionally implies that the family of Montresor is not very distinguished. It should be kept in mind that such a comment could seem very insulting to people who pay too much attention to self-esteem and prestige. As it has been said before, Fortunato does not believe that Montresor can belong to the masonry. In this way, he suggests that the social status of the narrator is rather low. It does not occur to him that Montresor can never forgive this arrogant treatment. One should keep in mind that the murderer belongs to a noble family, and their motto is “Nemo me impune lacessit” (Poe, 2008, p, 85). The phrase means that no one can offend them with impunity. In turn, Fortunato completely disregards these warnings and continues to treat Montresor in a very dismissive way. In this way, he unintentionally seals his fate.
Overall, Poe uses irony and foreshadowing in order to illustrate the behavior of the victim who fails to understand that he faces grave danger. In turn, Montresor wants to highlight the idea that he has been able to escape punishment. In particular, he notes that no one has discovered Fortunato’s body. However, one can assume that he struggles with remorse. For instance, the narrator describes his experiences after the murder in the following way, “My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so” (Poe 90). It does not occur to him that this suffering can be caused by guilt. His narrative means that he tries to justify his actions (Gruesser, 1998, p. 129).
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However, it is not quite clear for whom this story is intended. To some degree, he seeks empathy for other people; however, it is not likely that he can find it because the protagonist does not express any regret for the murder of Fortunato. This is one of the issues that should not be overlooked by the readers.
One of the most disturbing element is that Montresor does not even identify any motives for his action. The readers do not learn why he chose to kill Fortunato. Admittedly, he does not even mention how Fortunato insulted him. It is quite possible that the narrator could simply envy the victim. To some degree, envy could have prompted him to destroy Fortunato. This is one of the issues that should be taken into account. This person does not understand that revenge eventually leads to the destruction of his inner world (Stepp, 1999, p. 448). The key problem is that Montresor does not even think that he could have committed an atrocious act. This is one of the details that attract readers’ attention.
On the whole, The Cask of Amontillado provides several examples of the literary elements that can make people feel both excitement and apprehension. At first, Poe pays close attention to minute details that can show how the story can end. In particular, he strongly relies on such elements as irony and foreshadowing, which play a critical role in building suspense. In turn, readers are prompted to think about the possible outcomes of the journey that Montresor and Fortunato make. Furthermore, the author is able to create a thrilling story that prompts readers to look through the eyes of the murderer whose moral outlook is profoundly distorted. The cold-bloodedness of this person is also critical for this suspense narrative. These are the main details that can be distinguished.
Gruesser, J. (1998). Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado. Explicator, 56(3), 129-131. Web.
Platizky, R. (1999). Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado. Explicator, 57(4), 206-208. Web.
Poe, E. (2008). Edgar Allan Poe’s Annotated Short Stories. New York, NY: Bottletree Books. Web.
Stepp, W. (1976). The ironic double in Poe’S ‘The Cask of Amontillado’. Studies In Short Fiction, 13(4), 447-453. Web.