gar Allen Poe’s “TIn the history of literature, there have always been different themes and genres of writing. But few have been as different or unique as that of the gothic literature. Of all the gothic authors of history, few writing has captured the mind and plunged it into the depths of fear as that of Edgar Allen Poe. Poes The Cask of Amontillado, is a story that shows us how deadly being prideful can be. Themes of dishonour, revenge and questionable justice all come together in this story. In this essay, I will discuss how the setting, irony and the lack of certain details all contribute to the gothic theme and the spine-tingling effect of the story.
The setting and clothing of the story are two of the key factors in creating an atmosphere for the story to take place in. We are first introduced to the bright and cheerful environment of a carnival. Montresors clothing is the first to set the eerie feel to the story as he puts on a mask of black silk and a heavy, knee-length cloak. (71) Montresors clothing seems to reflect his mood as well as adding to the setting of the story. After this, we are introduced to Montresors catacombs; a place of death, decay and a dark setting where Montresor can commit his crime with no one suspecting. As the pair, Montresor and Fortunato head down the catacombs, some readers cannot help but think of them as heading down into the depths of hell, as in that time, hell was thought of to be below the earth, while heaven was above. The walls of the catacombs are covered with spider webs and as they pass through the long walls of piled skeletons. (72) They also notice a large amount of nitre hanging like moss upon the vaults. (72) The catacombs are so dark that both Montresor and Fortunato need torches to proceed through, and this increases the sinister environment of the catacombs. Even after providing such creepy details, Poe does not stop here. He goes on to say the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame. (73) Not only is the building corrupted, but the air in the structure is as well. All of these different factors come together to form a setting that lets our imagination picture a very horrid scene.
Irony is another factor that sets the dark mood and chilling theme of the story. The story begins with a festival that serves as some irony. The festival is a place of happiness and fun in a bright area filled with people. The fact that the murder takes place during a time of rejoice and celebration is quite ironic, especially since it is unknown at first what is going to take place. Fortunato himself displays much irony as well. First, his name resembles the word fortune and to have good fortune can mean to have good luck, which is obviously not what Fortunate has, having been left for eternity to perish alone in darkness. Fortunatos clothes are another source of irony. He wears the clothes of a jester, He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. (70) Since jesters are often portrayed as trusting and very foolish, this completely describes Fortunato as he willing and unknowingly walks with his murderer to his doom. Another source of irony is found in almost everything that Montresor says. Every time he speaks to Fortunato, he speaks to him as if he is his friend. He speaks to him with a sarcasm that is not noticeable. However, since we are inside his head, we know that Montresor is not actually friends with Fortunato and this ploy is all actually part of his plot to kill Fortunato. In the beginning, Montresor says to himself that I must not only punish but punish with impunity. (70) This is ironic when we later find out that Montresors family motto is No one provokes me with impunity. From the motto and the description of the coat of arms we receive, it can be assumed that Montresors family has had a history of insanity and murder. This would explain all of the skeletons in the catacombs under Montresors palazzo and would further create an ironic scene for Fortunatos good fortune in becoming friends and having contact with Montresor. Although irony is often humorous, Poe depicts irony of a discomforting nature. His irony leaves one to wonder whether there is some cruel joke at the roots of these evil acts.
The third factor that is part of the gothic theme is the theme of the unknown. Poe leaves quite a bit in the story unknown and left for our imagination. Poe starts the story with a mysterious theme, The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. (70) Poe never describes what these injuries and insults Fortunato had inflicted on Montresor, but he leaves that to our own minds. The story relates a horrible revenge that is made even more dreadful by the fact that the vengeance is being taken when no real offence has been given. This creates the argument that questions, is Montresor justified in murdering Fortunato? Or is Montresor insane and making a big deal out of a small issue? Poe purposely leaves this key information out of the story so that most readers may sympathize with Fortunato, while a few readers may still empathize with Montresor. Not knowing the severity of the issue, we question Montresors sanity and wonder if that is the cause of his actions. Fortunatos intentions are questioned when he continually attempts to take Fortunato back to the festival, yet in such a way that Fortunato is almost guaranteed to resist and continue on through the catacombs, Come, we will go back; your health is precious. You are richWe will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchresi (71) In this way, Montresor reveals Fortunatos pride and puts him into a position where he himself insists on continuing. When used effectively, the unknown can create as much suspense and horror as any full description by allowing the reader to scare him or herself.
Poe has used many different techniques to create a story that leaves much to the imagination, and many nightmares to let the mind wander. Some of the techniques that he uses include his eerie settings, his twisted irony, and his lack of certain details that lets the reader imagine more about the story than he or she may have expected. Poe is a master of these techniques and he has shown that he truly stands among the top writers in our history.Words
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