Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Review: 'The Cask of Amontillado' by Edgar Allan Poe

And it is Wednesday and we are more than half way through the Poe-Week. Now, for today I have 'The Casque (or Cask) of Amontillado' , a grizzly story about immurement. 

Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Publication Date: November 1846
Publisher: Godey's Lady's Book 

This is the first of his stories that I read for this week where the narrator is actually named. Montresor wants to avenge himself on his "friend" Fortunato, who has the bad luck of somehow insulting him. We are never told what the insult is but apparently it was awful enough for Montrsor to want to taste blood (figuratively of course, I haven't encountered cannibalism yet in any of Poe's stories).

Montresor comes up to Fortunato during the Carnival and the latter is rather drunk, even to such an extent that he doesn't get any of the hints that Montresor drops, such as "No one insults me with impunity". It seems to me that if you have insulted someone then this hint must be enough to get you thinking. Unless you are very drunk, I guess. 


Fortunato and Montresor enter the latter's vaults where he says he has a pipe (about 492 litres) of Amontillado wine that he wants Fortunato to look at. Although in the previous 2 posts I have tried not to let you know anything about the story, here I feel it is too vital not too. The immurement of Fortunato is a rather strange ordeal. It seems more stressful for Montresor than for Fortunato, who is almost too drunk to actually fully appreciate what is being done to him. And it also seems that the fumes in the catacombs were fatal to his weak chest, which means the immurement is barely of any use. 

This was definitely a chilling story to read, since as a reader you already know what is going to happen because the narrator is clearly preparing himself for it and we follow his thought process. However, because we are never told what the offense was, we are unable to agree with him or feel that he is any way justified to take revenge. And what got me wondering was that he seems unwilling to fulfill his wish . He keeps on asking Fortunato whether they should not go back and it seems just strange that he doesn't seem to actually want to kill him.

I found this animation on Youtube, together with a song-adaptation, which I thought would be fun to share, since it's rather good. Don't forget: SPOILER ALERT.



Final note: I think the name Montresor was intended to be read by Poe as the French Mon Tresor, which means 'my treasure'. He does stow Fortunato away rather safely and perhaps Fortunato stole something from him that he regarded as a treasure. I love these small intertextual links that Poe has quite a lot. And don't forget: tomorrow it is his actual birthday, which means I will be reviewing 'The Raven'.


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