The Cask of Amontillado: Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe

The Cask of Amontillado is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, published in 1846.

It was published in one of the issues of Godey’s Lady Book, a popular American Women’s magazine in the 1800s. And, I really wonder if women loved reading stories with such gory details of a crime! Did I enjoy? Perhaps, I did. I never thought it was easy to read a man’s tale of revenge gripped with eeriness and skeletons around me (yeah, you get that kind of feel mid-way through the story).

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

The story unfolds like a revelation made after half a century of committing the crime.  The creepy world of Edgar Allan Poe opens to you in full stretch, except the investigative part. Nobody has tried to unearth the crime in this story, and it is upon the narrator’s fancy to tell us about his crime.

The story is set in an unnamed Italian city during carnival time. It opens with a remark on Fortunato having ‘thrust a thousand injuries’ and an insult upon the narrator. It was this insult that set the narrator’s plan for revenge. In the course of the story, we get very little detail about the two characters. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser.’ Heavy phrases like these are rolled out to let us know the intensity of insult and the feeling of revenge harboured by the narrator.

Though the narrator continues his cordial attitude towards Fortunato; for he is respected and feared. There is just one weakness in Fortunato and that is his pride in showcasing expertise in wine. So, one evening, the narrator finds Fortunato drunk and in high spirits wearing a striped dress and conical cap (suggestive of being dressed like a clown). The narrator articulates his regret at paying full sum in advance for the cask of Amontillado for which he now had doubts. The Cask of Amontillado refers to an exquisite wine that becomes the tool to avenge the insult.

The narrator is successful in dragging Fortunato with him to his home (called Palazzo), to verify the cask of Amontillado kept in the basement chamber. At his house, he had made sure that the attendants had left for the carnival so there could be no witness to his crime. Through the rooms and archways, he took Fortunato down the long winding staircase to the catacomb of the Montresors’ family. The narrator stress that Montresors were great; perhaps to imply that the insult was beheld at family lineage and wealth by Fortunato.

Through the suffocating passage, the narrator states the quote in Latin, i.e, “nemo me impune lacessit,” meaning “no one attacks me with impunity” referring to the family shield placed inside the catacomb depicting a human foot crushing a serpent. In the meantime, the narrator gives Forunato more to drink, the final step to materialize his cruel intention. Fortunato is pushed inside a small gap, dug out for him to be trapped. The shock of the incident is too much for Fortunato, who even thinks it to be a joke. Meanwhile, the narrator lines the wall with bricks, mocking the chained and desperate Fortunato.

The major thrust is on building an atmosphere of eeriness and horror. Inside the catacomb, picture this, “Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris.

It is ironic that Poe uses the carnival, with the a riot of its colours and celebrations as the background for the cold-blooded murder. Why does the narrator want revenge from Fortunato is unknown, the generalized statement on the injuries and hurts hurled by him is sufficient for this story to move ahead?

An incredibly horrific account of a crime that keeps you laced to your story. It is amazing how this intensity is reached within an ambit of 2500 words. Well, only Edgar Allan Poe could achieve this.

This post is a part of #BlogchatterA2Z challenge under Alphabet E


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