Cask of Amontillado


"The Cask of Amontillado" By Jennifer Grimes English 102 Professor Robby Prenkert 11 April 2000 Grimes ii Outline Thesis: The descriptive details in "The Cask of Amontillado" not only appeal to the senses of the audience, but also show that the narrator has a memory that has been haunted with details that he can recall fifty years later. I. Introduction II. Auditory Appeal III. Humor Appeal IV. Visual Appeal V. Conclusion Grimes 1 "The vividness with which [Poe] transcribes his sensory experiences contributes powerfully to the response his stories invoke" (Fagin 202). In "The Cask of Amontillado," Edgar Allan Poe uses captivating images to descriptively tell a tail of revenge, while appealing to the senses of the audience. In "The Cask of Amontillado," Montressor seeks to have revenge on Fortunato for an unknown insult. Montressor confesses at the 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" (Lowell 214). Montresor wants to "not only punish, but punish with impunity"(214). The nature of this insult is not made clear; however, the reader is led to believe that the insult changed Montresor?s social status. Montresor says to Fortunato "You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was." This leads the reader to believe that Montresor once had high social status, but that status has changed due to the insult by Fortunato. Fortunato, entering the scene wearing a jesters costume, is unaware of Montesors? evil intentions of murder. Montresor persuades Fortunato, who prides "himself on his connoisseurship in wine," to go into the family vaults so he can taste and identify some "Amontillado" (Lowell 215). Along the way Fortunato becomes extremely drunk and unaware of Montresor?s evil plot of murder. Montresor then proceeds to lead him through the catacombs and finally buries him alive behind a wall. Montresor calls to Fortunato, but the only reply that he receives comes in the "jingling of the bells" from Fortunato?s cap (222). Grimes 2 II. Auditory Appeal The fact that the narrator mentions the "jingling of the bells" several times after fifty years indicates that he is haunted with a memory of their sound. Poe knew that the audience would relate the terrifying sound of the bells to premature burial. Premature burial is a concern during the 19th century when Poe writes this short story (Platizky 1). Live burial is practiced during this time as a form of capital punishment in Europe (1). It was a "Rite of social purification (2). "Being buried alive was the severe punishment for sexual offenses and grand larceny (Van Dlumen 6). With Poe?s fear of being buried alive these bells have a horrifying sound to him. Being buried alive is such a fear during this time that many people (especially the wealthier classes) have special coffins made (Platizky 1). These coffins have special "sounding devices" so that if a person is buried alive they can set off this type of alarm (1). Also, another common practice during this time involves the "placing of bells on the limbs of the recently dead"(1). Poe uses the horrifying sound of the bells to appeal to the auditory senses of the audience. The sound of these bells has a freighting effect on the audience. Every time Montresor takes special notice of the sound of the bells the audience is made aware of the surrounding silence. "Poe knew well the electrifying effect of sudden silence in the midst of revelry, revelry stages as escape from intolerable fear. His silences are as eloquent as those of Chekhov, except that the emotional lava with which Poe?s silences are charged is different" (Fagin 202). His silences are "eloquent" because they alternate with sound(202). Grimes 3 "The bells upon his cap jingles as he strode" is one sentence in which Montresor takes specific notice of the sound of these bells. The audience is made extremely aware of the specific notice of the sound of these bells. After Montresor finishes building the wall "there came forth in return only a jingling of the bells." "The ironic jingling of the bells which marks the end of ?The Cask of Amontillado? is as perfect a curtain as could be devised" (Fagin 204). The reader is left with only the sound of the bells, a sound that even they cannot help