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The Cask of Amontillado Plot Analysis Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial

situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice. Initial Situation An insult, and a vow of revenge Fortunato and Montresor have a history, and a painful one at that. Fortunato has wounded Montresor a thousand times. Montresor never complains. But one day, Fortunato goes too far: he insults Montresor, and Montresor vows revenge. Conflict How to make things right forever For Montresor to revenge himself for Fortunatos insult, he has to get away with it if Fortunato can revenge him back, then Montresor has lost. The punishment must be permanent Fortunato has to feel it, and he has to know its coming from Montresor. Complication Its almost too easy There really isnt much complication. After a few carefully dropped hints from Montresor (think Amontillado and Luchesi), Fortunato insists on following Montresor down into the underground graveyard of your worst nightmares. Montresor baits him and plays with him, but Fortunato never considers turning back until its way too late. Climax Trapped in a conveniently man-sized space! Montresor brings up Luchesi, Fortunato calls Luchesi an ignoramus, and boom! Hes chained inside an upright casket in the foulest depths of the catacomb! Thats the storys big, explosive moment. Suspense

Brick by brick by brick Montresor is building a wall of suspense, especially if you are Fortunato. Fortunatos watching himself being bricked in, waiting, breathlessly to see if this is some kind of really creepy carnival joke. Denouement The final brick After Montresor puts in the final brick, the suspense is dissolved. Hes heard the pitiful jingle of Fortunatos bells, and it means nothing to him. As soon as the air is used up in the tiny brick casket, Fortunato will be dead. Conclusion Looking back Its impossible to know how old Montresor is when he kills Fortunato, but in the second to the last line of the story, we learn that the murder happened fifty years ago. So Montresor is probably pushing eighty when hes telling the story. And he could be far more ancient. More importantly, this conclusion lets us know that Montresor has gotten away with his crime so far. His vengeance has been a success, and he wants us to know it. The Cask of Amontillado Setting Where It All Goes Down An underground catacomb, somewhere in Italy, during the carnival season The setting in The Cask, and in most Horror or Gothic Fiction, has a special purpose: to suggest freedom or confinement, in harmony or opposition to the freedom or confinement of the characters. This is called the Gothic Interior. Most people go back and forth between feeling free and feeling trapped. The Gothic Interior is meant to make us hyperaware of these emotions through careful attention to the setting. When we look at the settings of The Cask, we can see that the story has a distinct movement from freedom to confinement. First, lets start with the country. Italy doesnt directly factor into this formula of the Gothic Interior, at least not in an obvious way. It might have something to do with the guy who wrote the first explicitly Gothic

story, The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story.That guy is Horace Walpole, and when he first published Otranto, he claimed that it was a translation of an old Italian manuscript he found. When the story became a huge success, he confessed that he wrote it himself. Not so coincidentally, Otranto has much to do with freedom and confinement. In a nutshell, its about a giant gold helmet falling from the sky and trapping a guy underneath it. So, the Italian setting is probably Poes nod to Walpole. The carnival season and the Montresor family catacomb are a bit more direct. The carnival is a literal celebration of freedom, which both Montresor and Fortunato are participating in at the beginning of the story. As they journey through the catacomb, Montresor and Fortunato move into smaller and smaller and fouler and fouler spaces. This suggesting that, as they travel farther away from fresh air, they are also moving further away from freedom. Fortunato is eventually trapped in a space that represents the opposite of freedom: hes chained up and bricked inside a man-sized crypt with no air and no way out. You can certainly argue that Montresor presents a contrast to Fortunatos fate in that he finds freedom at the end of the story: he is alive. Montresor is free to do as he wishes. Ironically, what he wishes to do is tell this story. Which means that the story has him trapped. He cant forget it, and he has to talk about it. In his mind, hes still down there in the hole with Fortunato.
The Cask of Amontillado Narrator:
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

First Person (Central Narrator)


Montresor is our vile narrator. He is dedicated to his own point of view, which is cold, merciless, brutal, conniving, and vengeful. He doesnt mind telling us about his torture and murder of Fortunato; indeed, he thinks what he did was the just, right way to handle the situation. Given his brutality and insensitivity, it might surprise you to learn that Montresors point of view also involves poetry and writing. A quick look at Poes philosophy of fiction writing will help you see how we come to this conclusion. In addition to the idea of secret writing, which we discuss in Whats Up With the Title, Poe was very concerned with the form his stories should take. He wanted each story to be a little puzzle, with all sorts of hidden pieces we have to try to pick out ourselves. You can see this idea in the tight structure of The Cask. Poe also believed that lyric poetry, or poetry that is characterized by the expression of the poets innermost feelings, thoughts, and imagination was the highest form of writing, and he wanted to bring short story writing up to the level of lyric poetry.

When we take all that into account, Montresors confession/brag-fest begins to look suspiciously meta-fictional. Meta-fiction means that a story or a moment in the story comments on the writing process in some way. It tells us how the author feels about writing. Because Montresor is the guy telling the story, he becomes symbolic of the writer and is likely to have some of the writers habits and here we mean both the literal writer, in this case Poe, and, in the larger sense, any person who is driven to express themselves by writing. This isnt necessarily true of all first person narratives, but in Montresors case, its abundantly clear even if we dont know Poes philosophy. Look at the names. Montresor, and Fortunato. Do those sound like real people to you? Of course not, because Montresor is making it all up and he wants us to know it. (See Symbols, Imagery, Allegory and the Montresor Familys Character Analysis to find out why we think this.) In addition to being phony, the names are rhythmic, song-like, and should remind us of Poe and poetry. For-tu-na-to. Mon-tre-sor. These are names to be sung, said out loud, like poetry. Amontillado is the only name not invented by Montresor, and it has that same quality A-mon- ti -lla do it almost seems like a combination of Montresor and Fortunato. It rhymes with Fortunato, and it shares a mon, which can mean both the possessive mine or mound or mountain. This might suggest positive feelings about the craft of writing. On the other hand, as we say in the beginning, Montresors point of view is also extremely hideous and vile. Which suggests that maybe Poe had some mixed feelings about writing. His writer is a murderer. From a meta-fictional perspective, Poe, through Montresor, might be asking if fictionalizing ones own experience, or the experience of others, cheapens, or even destroys the experience. It suggests that he fears that the very process of writing is somehow violent. Next Page: Genre Previous Page: S

The Cask of Amontillado Summary


How It All Goes Down The story is told in first person, so we dont learn the narrators name until near the end. Until then, well call him the narrator. Here we go. The narrator begins by telling us that Fortunato has hurt him. Even worse, Fortunato has insulted him. The narrator must get revenge. He meets Fortunato, who is all dressed up in jester clothes for a carnival celebration and is already very drunk. The narrator mentions hes found a barrel of a rare brandy called Amontillado. Fortunato expresses eager interest in verifying the wines authenticity. So he and the narrator go to the underground graveyard, or catacomb, of the Montresor family. Apparently, thats where the narrator keeps his wine. The narrator leads Fortunato deeper and deeper into the catacomb, getting him drunker and drunker along the way. Fortunato keeps coughing, and the narrator constantly suggests that Fortunato is too sick to be down among the damp crypts, and should go back. Fortunato just keeps talking about the Amontillado. Eventually, Fortunato walks into a man-sized hole thats part of the wall of a really nasty crypt. The narrator chains Fortunato to the wall, then begins to close Fortunato in the hole by filling in the opening with bricks. When he has one brick left, he psychologically tortures Fortunato until he begs for mercy and we finally learn the narrators name: Fortunato calls him Montresor. After Fortunato cries out Montresors name, he doesnt have any more lines. But just before Montresor puts in the last brick, Fortunato jingles his bells. Then Montresor finishes the job and leaves him there to die. At the very end, Montresor tells us that the whole affair happened fifty years ago, and nobody has found out.

Freedom and Confinement

The contrast between freedom and confinement is extreme in The Cask of Amontillado. For one character to be free, another must die. Most of the story takes place in a vast and incredi...

Betrayal
Betrayal drives the action in The Cask of Amontillado." One characters betrayal sets off a hideous chain of retribution, enacted below ground in a mass grave. Behind all this revenge...

Drugs and Alcohol


The only literal drug we see in The Cask of Amontillado is wine. But there are many other drugs circulating between the lines. Drugs, in this story, can be anything the...

Mortality
The Cask of Amontillado has a frightening fixation on death, corpses, and bones. Edgar Allan Poes last short story, written only a few years before his death, is a precise and...

Foolishness and Folly


In The Cask of Amontillado foolishness and folly can cost you your life. The story amplifies human foolishness and folly to extremes so hideous and cruel they become vices. The...