Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Cask of Amontillado".
The first person narrator has suffered many injuries from his Italian friend Fortunato. He decides to take revenge on him. He prepares a precise plan of the revenge and above all decides what kind of psychological effect he wants to evoke.
He arranges an "accidental" meeting with Fortunato during carnival time. He mentions that he has bought a pipe of Amontillado and that he has some doubts. The both men are fond of wine. Fortunato's "connoisseurship" in wine is his greatest weakness. The narrator pretends to be on his way to another man, Luchesi, who should clear his doubts. Fortunato claims Luchesi incompetent and insists on following the narrator despite the carnival (he wears a carnival mask with bells). The narrator brings Fortunato to his vaults where an enormous number of bones of his ancestors is displayed. Their way through the vaults builds the main part of the story. It resembles a way to the subterranean world of Hades. Not only the atmosphere is oppressive but also the air in the vaults which are covered by the nitre. Several times the narrator urges Fortunato to return because of his health. Fortunato has a severe cold and the nitre makes his condition still worse. Because of the Amontillado, Fortunato always refuses.
The narrator claims himself to be one of the Montresors, a great and numerous family which lies in these vaults. Their coat of arms is a foot crushing a serpent and the motto: "No one injures me with impunity." Then he claims to be a mason, one of the brotherhood, but he does not understand the mason sign which Fortunato makes. He claims his sign to be a trowel which he produces from beneath his clothes.
The two arrive at the end of the vaults. Fortunato is astonished and fails to struggle against the narrator who binds him with chains to the wall. He promises Fortunato to render him all the attentions in his power and Fortunato is able only to ask for Amontillado again. The narrator's answer is positive, but his starts laying triers of stones to enclose the recess where Fortunato is bound. The narrator listens to Fortunato's desperate cries with great pleasure.
When he is about to place the last stone, the narrator hears a low laugh from the recess, a laugh which erects the hairs upon his head. Then there is a sad voice, laughing again and saying that this is a great joke over which they will laugh over wine. Then the voice observes that it is too late and asks: "Let us be gone." Then there are no more sounds. The narrator places the last stone, re-erectes the old bones against the new wall, and observes: "May he rest in peace!"
- a haunting short story with Gothic features
- theme: the (im)morality of revenge
- the oppressive atmosphere and concern with an extended extinct house resemble Poe's story "The Fall of the House of Usher"
- ironical, at times grotesque
- the name of "Fortunato" seems to imply good fortune, but this meaning would be ironic
- recurring motifs: nitre, Amontillado
AuthorPoe, Edgar Allen. (1809 - 1849).
Full Title"The Cask of Amontillado".
Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Cask of Amontillado". (1846). In: The Chief American Prose Writers: Selected Prose. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916.