The Theme of Vengeance in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe
In the line of vision of Edgar Allan Poe, the story is an exquisite illustration of concepts such as: horror, terror, and passion. In this succinct tale, the author precisely illustrates the theme of vengeance. Furthermore, Poe adds components of irony and suspense in order to finalize his tale. Poe did not exert a single trivial detail neither did he forsake an opportunity to encounter us as readers. The scheme of the story rotates mainly around the execution of his treachery and vindication against Fortunato. Moreover, a large portion of these concepts are bind together and given their ultimate meaning through the extensive use of irony.
“The Cask of Amontillado” is an excellent example of a tale of curious happenings based on the theme of revenge. We become aware of Montresor’s intentions from the very beginning of the story. In fact, Poe wastes no time letting us know that Montresor is suffering from the “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best as I could; but when he venture upon insult, I vowed revenge.” Montresor even enjoys his own evil as he brags when he says, “It must be understood, that by neither word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good-will.” Fortunato is a calculating character, we become aware of his calculations when he appears dressed as an executioner for the carnival. We are also aware of how Montresor has planned the entire event out because he relies on Fortunato’s pride to get him drunk. Additionally, Montresor makes plans for his house to be empty when Fortunato arrives. We are told, “there are no attendants at home . . . I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house.” Montresor also carries the trowel with him as the two men make their way to the catacombs. Throughout all of this, Montresor shows no signs of changing his mind.
Richard Benton, says that the story is a “mixture of such sayings as ‘Revenge is sweet’ (Southerne) and ‘What passes will be sweet’ (Pushkin).” Indeed, we have a man who has plotted his revenge and has every intention of carrying it out. Benton points out that “Montresor’s narrating voice displays an inner satisfaction and a pride in reliving in the present the performance of a masterful trick in the past. He is so pleased with himself that he proudly exhibits every detail--every act, word, and gesture--of his treatment of Fortunato.” For example, it is amazing to think that Montresor can remember with such vivid detail the event, which occurred about fifty years ago. But he is able to recount even the eyes of Fortunato, which were like “filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication.” Additionally, he remembers the jingling of the bells that were attached to Fortunato’s costume. Benton also makes an important fact that Montresor’s tale of revenge is in no way to be considered a confession. Indeed, “The Cask of Amontillado” is a tale built upon revenge and part of the tale’s strength comes from the fact that Montresor does not ever express a drop of regret for his actions.
We witness dramatic irony, when we become aware of what is going to happen to Fortunato. Fortunato’s name can be shown as an additional element of irony, for his circumstance is anything but fortunate. Additionally, we are told that Fortunato “wore motley” for the carnival, he had on a “tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells.” This is obviously a work of genius in Poe, for we imagine not only a man dressed as a fool, but a literal fool as well. Moreover, Montresor makes a complete fool of Fortunato by the evening’s end. Poe employs verbal irony with much of Montresor’s concise speech. From the beginning of his deceiving climb into the catacombs, Montresor is ‘concerned’ with Fortunato’s cough: “We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible.” However, he follows that statement with the manipulative statements about Luchesi. Furthermore, Montresor tells Fortunato that his health is precious: “You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was.” This is a powerful scene because it describes the differences between Montresor and Fortunato and perhaps the reason for Montresor’s feelings. The Latin motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit” which translates in English as “No one attacks me with impunity”, has a great significance in supporting the theme of vengeance. The coat of arms gives us a reason to understand why Montresor is so unforgiving in getting revenge from Fortunato. The picture on the coat of arms is one of a golden foot crushing a snake which has its fangs surrounded in the heel of the foot. Poe employs another irony when Fortunato tells Montresor that he will not die of a cough and Montresor replies, “True--true”. This statement allows us to see the evil mind of Montresor.
Furthermore, it is ironic that Montresor is capable of getting Fortunato down into the catacombs using Fortunato's pure jealousy of Luchesi, enchanted with his arrogance. Every time Montresor proposes leaving the humidity of the catacombs, commemorating Luchesi, provokes an indignant reply from Fortunato. Montresor had analyzed Fortunato's characteristic traits enough to have the knowledge on how to trap him. These facts not only show Fortunato's ability to be manipulated, but it also reveals Montresor's pure evil. Evidently, we are fully aware of what the speaker thinks, which makes it less arduous for us to become afflicted in the story to uncover if Montresor can really complete his own act. Fortunato eventually becomes wary of the situation, nonetheless he apparently never finds the reason why. The anxiety becomes a drastic impact when we see that Montresor implements his plan impulsively and without any hesitation. An alternative component of uncertainty reveals itself as Fortunato becomes disenchanted with the situation, he comes into the realization that he has been trapped. Montresor acknowledges the cry he heard whilst positioning the bricks in the vent was “not the cry of a drunken man.” The tale becomes more appalling when Montresor casts his torch inside the crypt so that Fortunato can witness his own dreadful destiny. Fortunato’s anguish increases the tension of the story. This scene is dreadful not only because Fortunato is buried alive, but also because of Montresor’s frightening character that remains so calm during the entire action. In fact, we know that even in the fifty years that have passed, Montresor’s feelings have not changed at all. His only response after so many years have passed is, “In pace requiescat!”
The element of revenge is masterfully employed by Poe as the basis of “The Cask of Amontillado.” Poe expresses the need for revenge as a result of Montresor and Fortunato’s proud and fraudulent natures. It is possible to see the revenge being performed with impunity, as there is no affirmation of guilt. In the end, we are left mystified with the uncertainty of whether Montresor’s revenge is justifiable, as the ‘insult’ never gets uncovered.
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