New Historicism & Marxist Literary Criticism on “A Cask of Amontillado”
“A Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe was first published in 1846 in an American magazine. The historical context of this piece is as much about revenge as the plot in the story itself. During this time, Poe had acquired a bitter rival in the person of Thomas Dunn English (Rust 25). The two had many literary bouts and Poe was even able to successfully sue English for libel over one literary caricature that English made of him.
English sought vengeance by writing a novel titled “1844” that portrayed a character similar to Poe as a dishonest and abusive drunkard (Rust 26). This is historically known as Poe’s main inspiration for writing “A Cask of Amontillado” (Rust 25). In fact, Poe’s work makes several references to “1844” such as the mention of secret societies and Montresor’s family coat of arms (Rust 26). It is also interesting to note that the setting of “1844” was also centered in a subterranean vault (Rust 26).
It can therefore be clearly seen that “A Cask of Amontillado” is Poe’s response to “1844” where he expresses his belief that he has finally put his rival down for good.
Aside form a New Historicist critical view, there are also several key ideas that can be entertained by Marxist literary criticism. One of these ideas is that the tale seems to insult Italians as being quacks with only a few having the “true virtuoso spirit” (Poe). Another point of Marxist criticism is that the tale itself seems to have a political color in terms of its subliminal advocacy against drinking. It should be noted that during the same historical period that Poe’s work was published, the Washingtonian movement had been gaining political ground (Cecil 41). This group was composed of reformed drinkers who had the agenda of using fear to keep people away from alcohol and Poe was known to have at least interacted with them in seeking a political post (Cecil 41).
Cecil, L. Moffitt. Poe Studies. Vol. V, no. 2, 1972.
Poe, Edgar Allan. A Cask of Amontillado. 2007. Poestories. April 9, 2008 <http://www.poestories.com/text.php?file=amontillado>
Rust, Richard D. “Punish with Impunity: Poe, Thomas Dunn English and ‘The Cask of Amontillado'”. The Edgar Allan Poe Review. Vol. II, Issue 2, 25 – 27, St. Joseph’s University, 2001.
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New Historicism & Marxist Literary Criticism on “A Cask of Amontillado”. (2017, Mar 31). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/new-historicism-marxist-literary-criticism-on-a-cask-of-amontillado/