the cask of amontillado by edgar allan poe

The very famous Edgar Allan Poe, author of this short story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” has been described in many different ways (which is quite an understatement for such the rare kind of man that he was), but one common description among the accredited seems to be isolated. Also in this tale, the narrator and main character, Montresor, is quite isolated. They both seem to be distant from rules and reality, but for the both of them, not having to endure lasting punishments justifiable by the law in which they lived is very much in their reality.

Because of the many similarities among them, like this one (isolation), accredited literary critics, biographers, historians have concluded that Poe was using Montresor to convey his very own thoughts. So in this piece of truth, it is definitively concluded that Poe is represented by Montresor in “The Cask of Amontillado,” psychologically, socially, and religiously. In the very beginning of the short story, on the very first line to be exact, Montresor mentions how he had borne the thousand of insults of Fortunato as best as he could, yet it was only an insult that “pushed him over the edge” so to say.

This one insult enraged Montresor to a level where he created a plot to exact the perfect revenge on Fortunato. And as the story unfolds, the perfect crime is committed with an eternal cost. Montresor gets his revenge, and Fortunato suffers to death because of an insult, literally. Yet there is a psychological aspect to this act. Edward H. Davidson, an accredited professor of English, concludes that the two are delusional. Of course if Poe is using Montresor to convey his thoughts, because this is indeed a soliloquy, then the accusations fall on them both.

Davidson implies that Poe does not comply with sanity; therefore his protagonist in the story is a direct “image” of Poe himself. And still, as mentioned before, neither Poe nor Montresor can grasp what is reality because of isolation and delusion. They do not operate through morality. Far from being his author’s mouthpiece, the narrator, Montresor, is one of the supreme examples in fiction of a deluded rationalist who cannot glimpse the moral implications of his planned folly. Davidson, Poe: A Critical Study) Davidson is successful in describing Montresor as a character, but fails to see the direct similarities between author and protagonist. As supported by a few other accredited sources, Montresor is indeed the “mouthpiece” for Poe. Poe does not touch morality. He may be able to live quite well without a conscience: Montresor does. (Vincent Buranelli, Edgar Allan Poe) Davidson and Buranelli agree alike that Montresor and Poe are insane. That is what is given.

So psychologically, Poe wants to commit a devious crime, but he tries to disguise this desire with a lesson-to-be-learned conclusion, hence Montresor being tormented by guilt for about fifty years. Also Poe’s mind was full of dark, depressing thoughts, stemming from his dark, tragic life, which allowed for his dark, gruesome themes in many of his tales. A significant amount of other stories support this theme like “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” which in both contain terror and/ or some certain immoralities.

Socially, Montresor is portrayed, in his own world, as a rational man. Though an insult, rather than “the thousand of injuries of Fortunato,” angered him, he failed to notice just how insane and immoral his thoughts, actions, and possibly even his being really was. So like Montresor, Poe also failed to realize just how abnormal and cruel he really was (mostly on himself). This is where ambiguity and irony strikes “The Cask of Amontillado” because Montresor’s narration can be literal or figurative, either way relating back to its author.

Though they both believed they were rather logical and rational, nothing they did really matched reality, reality being what is perceived as logical and rational. This is where irony falls in place. Their actions’ oppositions to their state of mind allowed them both to miss out on what was really happening. They missed out on morality and ethics, neither of which Poe every tried to convey. This was something of which Montresor was ignorant, all this relating directly back to Poe himself. In analyzing this text in a bit more detail, hubris is displayed in Montresor’s character.

As a brief retell to point out hubris, Harold Bloom simply says, “Obsessed with revenging himself upon Fortunato for an unknown slight, Montresor employs a facade of kindness and friendliness to mask his evil plot. He is convinced of his own cleverness, and possesses a cynically accurate grasp of human nature. His “treasure” (Montresor = mon tresor) is both the imaginary cask of Amontillado and his own mad genius. In the end, however, his lack of conscience dooms him to a lifelong preoccupation with his crimes. That doom that Bloom speaks of is the downfall Montresor’s mad genius, thus in case proves that he had hubris. His ego was absolutely too massive not to be punished by fate.

James W. Gargano, another accredited English professor, analyzed “The Cask of Amontillado” thoroughly and concluded Montresor’s hubris by saying, “Poe’s fine ironic sense makes clear that Montresor, the stalker of Fortunato, is both a compulsive and pursued man? for in committing a flawless crime against another human being, he really commits the worst of crimes against himself. And lastly, though this certainly not the end of Poe and Montresor’s similarities, religion and repetition come into play (religion, meaning both repetition and spirituality to a certain extent). Repetition is a sign of rituals, not only spiritually, but generally. The technique of rhetorical analysis has come to uncover underlying meanings of a repeated text. Even further, there is a sort of spiritual aspect to repetition in myth and rituals. Examples include, “For the love of God, Montresor! ” says Fortunato.

“Yes,” I said, “for the love of God! says Montresor. Also when Fortunato tries to laugh the entire affair off as a prank, and says “Let us be gone,” the narrator says, “Yes, . . . let us be gone. ” Professor Stuart Levine better explains this in writing, “Since, in this discussion we have dealt with terms—myth and ritual—it would perhaps be well to differentiate, or at least attempt to define the nature of the interrelationship. In a useful discussion of the subject, Austin Warren wrote, “For many writers, myth is the common denominator between poetry and religion. . . Religious myth is the large scale authorization of poetic metaphor. ” This is relevant for Poe, for he shared the then-current notions concerning the connection between the ideal artist and his source of inspiration? His ideal artist was a kind of god, and practiced godlike creation. But clearly Montresor is not the ideal artist. What he created is a murder plot. Yet that plot has the characteristic “look” of the beautiful creations in Poe: it is complex, it is ornate, and it is bizarre.

It will ”take” all those terms which Poe uses to characterize ideal beauty. Poe’s ideal poet creator plays god? Montresor, too, plays god, and were the story more overtly concerned with moral issues, one might even be able to say that god-playing is his sin. ” From aspects of psychology to society and religion, Edgar Allan Poe put himself wholly into the character of Montresor. Though the refutation of Edward Davidson would otherwise spark an opposition to this statement, other accredited sources do support this statement, therefore favoring the thesis.

Though Montresor and Poe thinks of themselves to be rational geniuses, they are both surely mistaken for they can neither grasp reality nor can they see the errors in their beliefs. Their hubris led to their ultimate destruction socially, and religiously, both Montresor and Poe had a certain analytical rhetoric to how they planned things, whether it was Poe in actually writing a story or poem or if it was Montresor with this diabolical, murder plot.


Bloom, Harold. ; “Edgar Allan Poe : Comprehensive Research and Study Guide. ” EBSCO Publishing : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) Buranelli, Vincent. Fiction Themes. ” In Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1961 pp. 72–73. Davidson, Edward H. “The Tale as Allegory. ” In Poe: A Critical Study, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press, 1957, pp. 202–203. Gargano, James. “The Question of Poe’s Narrators. ” College English 25 (1968): 180. Gioia, Dana, X. J. Kennedy, Revoyr, Nina. “The Cask of Amontillado. ” In Literature for Life. Pearson Publishers, 2013. pp. 1341-1345 Levine, Stuart. “Horror, Beauty and Involvement. ” In Edgar Poe: Seer and Craftsman. DeLand, FL: Everett/Edwards, 1972, pp. 85–87.


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