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Essay/Term paper: Poe's the cask of amontillado: themes

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Edgar Allen Poe

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Poe's The Cask of Amontillado: Themes

UNIVERSIDADE FEDERAL DO PARANÁ Curitiba, 8 de outubro de 1996 Curso: Letras -
Inglês / Noturno Disciplina: Literatura Norte Americana I Aluno: Anderson José

TASK: To write a summary theme of Poe's "The Cask Of

One of the main themes of Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask Of
Amontillado is revenge. In this summary theme I intend to demonstrate how
dramatic irony is used all along the short story as a way of reminding us the
true intentions of the character who vowed revenge.
Firstly I will make a brief summary of the short story: the
story is supposed to happen more than a hundred years ago ( it was first
published in 1846 ) during Italian Carnival festivities. The main character, a
man called Montressor, feels terribly ofended, even insulted by a friend named
Fortunato, and firmly decides to take this friend's life. In order to achieve
his aim, Montressor elaborates a plan which consists basicaly of two steps:
first, to take Fortunato to the catacombs of the Montressors, and second, to
arrest Fortunato down there forever.
Irony first appears in Fortunato's name, once we are made aware,
in the second paragraph, that he is going to be killed, but it ( the irony )
continues present during all the short story as something to call our attention
to what is really happening.
In the second paragraph Montressor states that in spite of his
decision of killing Fortunato, he continued smiling in his face ( Fortunato's ),
but he adds: "...and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of
his immolation." So, when they meet each other they behaved as always, but now
Montressor's smile had another meaning for himself.
Certain evening, " during the supreme madness of carnival
season...", Montressor meets his "friend" Fortunato and Montressor is very kind,
even affectionate towards him. He greets Fortunato... "My dear Fortunato, you
are luckly met..." . The reader that knows Montressor's real intentions notices
here that this greeting has another meaning, different from what it would mean
if we did not know about Montressor's plan. Once we are aware of Montressor's
intentions, we perceive that the real meaning of the sentence could be something
instance. Here, the irony dresses itself with a bitter taste of sadist disguised
However, there are passages in which is impossible to assure
that Montressor was using irony in his speech. For example, in the passage that
Fortunato says- "Enough (...), the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me.
I shall not die of a cough." and Montressor replies- "True-true,...", we can not
be sure that Montressor said that because he knew Fortunato was going to die by
a different cause. Perhaps Montressor said that without thinking that he himself
would be the cause of Fortunato's death, or at least the agent to cause it.
Another very interesting passage in which there is explicit or
implicit irony is when the two men talk about Montressors' arms. In this case
the irony has meaning by itself. It is not a sentence said dubiously, but an
object that has its own unique meaning. The Montressors' arms consisted of a
image of someone's foot treading a rampant serpent whose fangs were imbedded in
the heel. And the motto was Nemo me impune lacessit that means no one insults me
with impunity. Fortunato does not know that everything symbolized in
Montressors' arms is going to happen to him. He is the "foot" that is going to
be bit by the revengeful "Montressor's fangs". It is another reminding of what
is the real Montressor's purpose in taking Fortunato to the catacombs.
All these examples demontrate how Edgar Allan Poe uses dramatic
irony in his short story to call the readers' attention to the double meaning of
words, and for extension, as one of Poe's favourite motifs, the duplicity of
human nature.


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