"Araby" and "Cask of Amontillado": a Comparison Essay

I found the stories “Araby,” by James Joyce and “The Cask of Amontillado,” by Edgar Allan Poe to have a similar idea behind them - "Araby" and "Cask of Amontillado": a Comparison Essay introduction. They both seem to be stories involving someone manipulating the actions of another person. I will be talking about and comparing the different elements of each story and their relevance.

Both stories take place in different countries. In “Araby” the story is about a boy from Ireland. The country itself doesn’t have too much importance. The story would be almost the same if the boy was from America. When the main character visits the bazaar is when the setting matters. In this case the setting in not the physical place, but what it represents. The items for sale are from the Middle East. This adds a taste of adventure to the bazaar, so it’s not just another flea market. For “The Cask of Amontillado,” again the country doesn’t matter. It could take place anywhere in the world. The importance is the cellar. Poe uses this creepy place to set the mood.

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The themes of each story are different yet similar. In “Araby” the protagonist is motivated by desire. He is infatuated with his friend’s sister. He would do anything for her. By her telling him she wished she could go to the bazaar but couldn’t, it made him want to go just to get her something. Joyce doesn’t say, but I think that the boy wouldn’t have gone or wanted to go so badly if she didn’t talk to him. In “The Cask…” the protagonist is the one who manipulates someone else. He is motivated by revenge. He uses Fortunato’s love of wine to get what he wants. He made Fortunato think that it was his idea to go down to the cellar. This way the protagonist manipulated his enemy to catch him unaware.

For “Araby the only symbolism I found dealt with the bazaar. The bazaar represented adventure. It stood for something romantic and foreign. Other than that I didn’t think anything else in the story was a significant symbol. As for “The Cask…” I believe Poe uses the cellar for symbolism. He uses the words vault, catacombs, and cavern. I believe all of this symbolizes death. Catacombs are where people are put to rest; it’s already full of death. I think he uses vault to symbolize something that is locked away. A vault is not only something in a bank where you store things, but also can be a place of death. One definition of vault is a tomb or burial chamber. The other symbolism I found is Fortunato’s outfit. Fortunato was wearing motley, which is a multicolored dress. He was also wearing a conical cap with bells on it. This is the traditional look of a court Jester in medieval times, also known as a fool. I believe Poe uses this to show us that Fortunato was fooled. At the end of the story he starts laughing and believes it all to be a joke.

The tones of each work are different. Joyce’s story is dealing with love. It has a feeling of urgency. The boy cannot wait for his uncle to come home to give him some money. All of his thoughts are about the girl. This story is written in the first person narrative. It has a feel of someone recalling something that has happened a while ago. “The Cask…” was also written in the first person narrative. I believe the overall tone is dark and ominous. You know from the beginning that the protagonist seeks revenge. There are a couple of ironies in this story. The main character toasts to Fortunato’s long life. This can either be taken as sarcasm, as the main character will soon doom him to his death; or he does indeed want him to live long and suffer the fate that he has in store for him. He also pretends to be concerned with Fortunato’s health, which he uses to further motivated Fortunato to seek out the cask.

The last element that I will talk about is the structure of each story. They are both linear. “Araby” gives more background information and character building. We find out that the protagonist’s goal is the affection of his friend’s sister. It is unclear his specific goals, but we do know that he desires her. The story picks up once she talks to him. He then has to overcome the fact that he has promised her that if he goes, he will get her something. I don’t really feel that there is much of a climax. The main character ultimately fails his goal to retrieve an object to give to her. In “The Cask…” we do not find out much about the main character in the beginning. All we know is that Fortunato has wronged him in some way and that he seeks revenge. Poe does develop and describe the character Fortunato though. Though the story takes place in a short amount of time, Poe makes it feel like a journey or an adventure. The story reaches its’ climax when Fortunato reaches the innermost chamber and the main character chains him to the wall and closes the entrance with masonry. This is where we discover that the ultimate goal of the main character is to trap Fortunato and leave him to die in his cellar. Poe resolution is to show that the main character has got away with his crime and that Fortunato’s remains were left undisturbed for half a century.

Through this comparison I have found that though the stories are completely different, they both have a similar theme to them. They both show manipulation. Though with “Araby” it is unclear whether the girl was consciously trying to manipulate the boy. From the start of “The Cask…” we know that the main character’s goal is to enact his revenge. He uses what his enemy loves to manipulate him to achieve his goals. I hope my analysis has helped enlighten you.

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