Irony of The Cask of Amontillado Many of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories contain a wide variety of irony, motifs, and symbolism. The unity of these elements within many of his tales creates specific moods in and throughout his works. One story in particular, The Cask of Amontillado not only displays Poe’s exquisite attention to detail and mastery of literary unity, but it clearly portrays his expertise in the use of irony within this story. The most evident use of irony is through the character’s name Fortunato.
The name plainly means fortunate however, the very unfortunate fate of this character is obviously found out as the story unfolds.
Poe uses several types of irony in The Cask of Amontillado. The irony of the situation in general is clearly stated in the first sentence, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. ” Basically the narrator states that the physical injuries he endured from Fortunato did not really bother him however, when Fortunato ventured upon verbal insult, the narrator then wanted revenge.
Most human beings are more apt to act on physical pain versus emotional insult, but in this story that apparently is not the case.
The narrator then goes on to say, “You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. ” With this statement the narrator is attempting to display the goodness of his nature by stating that people who truly know him know that the following tale is out of character for him. Then a few sentences down, the narrator chooses to follow that bold statement with “A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong. This quote states the importance of revenge upon Fortunato for the narrator. The narrator carefully plans his revenge to where he cannot be punished for the punishment he is instilling upon Fortunato. This is made clear in his before statement, “I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. ” In the opening paragraph one can see that Poe is using the narrator’s words to show the seriousness of revenge while keeping the integrity of the narrator somehow intertwined as well. From there the change of setting sets the next tone of irony.
The story goes from a fun carnival atmosphere to an impending cavern of death. The audience is overtly aware of the fate of Fortunato although he himself has no clue. Reminders of this use of dramatic irony within the tale are thrown in here and there to accentuate the narrator’s feeling of distress. Poe cleverly uses dramatic irony to show how the narrator falsely gained Fortunato’s trust. And this use of dramatic irony lasts until the final page of the tale when Fortunato becomes an initiate. In the story, the narrator uses wine to entice Fortunato into his future burial chamber.
The narrator then repetitively inquires about Fortunato’s health however, his concern for the other man’s well-being is at odds with his true intentions. Once Fortunato is drunk the narrator then builds a wall to keep Fortunato in the chamber, and leaves him to die. From the beginning of the story the narrator refers to Fortunato as his friend, yet uses this to his advantage to lure Fortunato to his very unfortunate death. During their descend into the chamber Fortunato toasts “to the buried that repose around us,” unaware that he will soon join them. And I to your long life,” responds Montresor. Fortunato also asks whether Montresor is a member of the masons. Montresor produces a mason’s trowel from under his cloak. Fortunato thinks it a joke, unaware that he is seeing a tool to be used in his entombment. The brotherhood of Free and accepted Masons is far removed from what has brought these two men together. At the end, when Fortunato is in the niche, after he realizes what is happening to him he begins to laugh, “Ha! ha! ha! -He! he! he! – a very good joke indeed-an excellent jest. this can be ironic because previously in the story Fortunato is dressed in a clown suit, as a jester with bells on his hat. Several displays of verbal irony are also used. Some of the times verbal irony is used to help to enforce the other uses of irony. For instance, as Fortunato is finding out his fate and trying to convince himself that it is a joke, he says that the Lady Fortunato will be waiting for him at the Palazzo, and “Let us be gone” and Montresor’s response is “Yes. ” “Let us be gone. ” They both say the same thing, but to each of them it has drastically different meanings. Fortunato wants o go home, go to his wife. Montresor wants him to simply be gone, be gone from his life, and be gone from the world. It is an ironic play on words. However this verbal irony also can be taken as the dramatic irony as well, because the character Fortunato is finally beginning to see what the audience has known all along, but still doesn’t quite pick up on the verbal hints of Montressor. Between the irony of Montressor manipulating and controlling the story as well as Poe’s further creation of verbal, dramatic, and situational irony within the story, readers can see how the use of irony is extremely important.
This tale is not only full of irony, but also of symbolism, foreshadowing, and the list goes on. Poe’s expertise in morphing these literary devices together allows the reader to fully engage in the story full of emotion and suspense. Poe’s eerie tales have been deemed timeless. Among them, The Cask of Amontillado shows Poe’s pure genius of word choice and literary devices. Poe’s twisted irony is a crucial element to understanding the function of the story; with out the recognition of irony, Poe’s narrative would not have had the same effect.
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