Edgar Allen Poe

To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of these
extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality. That it has
frequently, very frequently, so fallen will scarcely be denied by those who
think. The boundaries that divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague.

Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins? Edgar Allan Poe
often uses the motif of premature or concealed burials in his literary works.

One such story is "The Cask of Amontillado." The story begins around dusk,
one evening during the carnival season (similar to the Mardi Gras festival in

New Orleans) in an unnamed European city. The location quickly changes from the
lighthearted activities associated with such a festival to the damp, dark
catacombs under Montressor\'s palazzo, which helps to establish the sinister
atmosphere of the story. Although several characters are mentioned in this
story, the true focus lies upon Montresor, the diabolical narrator of this tale
of horror, who pledges revenge upon Fortunato for an insult. When the two meet
during the carnival season, there is a warm greeting with excessive shaking of
hands, which Montresor attributes to the fact that Fortunato had been drinking.

Montresor also appears to be "happy" to see Fortunato since he is
planning to murder him. Fortunato\'s clown or jester\'s costume appears to be
appropriate not only for the carnival season but also for the fact that

Montresor intends to make a "fool" out of him. Poe writes this story
from the perspective of Montresor who vows revenge against Fortunato in an
effort to support his time-honored family motto: "Nemo me impune lacessit"
or "No one assails me with impunity." (No one can attack me without
being punished.) Poe does not intend for the reader to sympathize with Montresor
because Fortunato has wronged him, but rather to judge him. Telling the story
from Montresor\'s point of view intensifies the effect of moral shock and horror.

Once again, the reader is invited (as was the case in "The Tell-Tale

Heart") to delve into the inner workings of a sinister mind. Poe\'s story is
a case of premeditated murder. The reader becomes quickly aware of the fact that

Montresor is not a reliable narrator, and that he has a tendency to hold grudges
and exaggerate terribly, as he refers to the "thousand injuries" that
he has suffered at the hands of Fortunato. "...But when Fortunato ventured
upon insult, Montresor could stand no more, and vowed revenge." Montresor
tries to convince the reader that his intentions are honorable in an effort to
uphold his family motto. "Nemo me impune lacessit" is also the
national motto of Scotland. Kenneth Silverman, in his book Edgar A. Poe:

Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance, makes reference to the fact that it is
not an accident or similarity that Poe chooses this particular motto. It is one
that would remind Poe of another Scotsman, John Allan, his foster father. Allan,
"much resembled Fortunato in being a man \'rich, respected, admired,
beloved,\' interested in wines, and a member of the Masons." Silverman
continues by saying that even the Allan name can be seen as an anagram in

Amontillado. (Silverman 317) Stuart and Susan Levine, editors of The Short

Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe: An Annotated Edition, does not view Poe\'s story as
just a clever tale of revenge, but instead, see it as an anti-aristocratic
commentary. "Resentment against aristocratic \'privilege\' of all kinds
reached a peak in Jacksonian and post-Jacksonian America.... Poe’s tale is
related to innumerable articles in American magazines of the period about the
scandalous goings-on of continental nobility." (Levine 454, 455) "The

Cask of Amontillado" is a carefully crafted story so that every detail
contributes to "a certain unique or single effect." Irony, both
dramatic and verbal, plays an important role in this process. Dramatic irony
(the reader perceives something that a character in the story does not) occurs
when the reader becomes painfully aware of what will become of Fortunato even
though the character continues his descent into the catacombs in pursuit of the

Amontillado. Poe further adds to this effect by calling the character Fortunato
(who is anything but fortunate), and dressing him in a clown or a fool\'s costume
since Montresor intends to make a fool of him as part of his dark plan. There
are numerous examples of verbal irony (character says one thing and means
something else) within Montresor\'s words. Montresor expresses concern about

Fortunato\'s health, and several times he suggests that they should turn back for
fear that