Cask of Amontillado1
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.
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 Montresors 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 Montresors 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 Fortunatos cap (222).
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 Poes fear of being buried alive the...