"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe

"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe

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Edgar Allen Poe wrote a tale about two friends, Montresor (the main character) who feels very offended by an insult that Fortunato (his friend) made towards his family. The insult is unknown, but Montresor won't give up until he gets his revenge on Fortunato. The story is told from a first person point of view. The reader is led through the story by the narrator, Montresor. And in order to get the reader to understand the situation and the time that it takes place, Edger Allen Poe uses details of setting -- clothing, rooms, and sounds -- to create a mood of horror for the readers.

Poe's description of the clothing of Montresor and Fortunato suggests an atmosphere of darkness and evil. Fortunato is introduced as being part of the Italian carnival season and wearing a costume of a jester, "The man wore a motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells." (744). Montresor is introduced in the book as wearing, "A mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaire (a knee-length cloak) closely about my person" (745).

Besides the detail of the characters' clothing to create a mood of horror, Poe also describes in vivid detail of the underground rooms of Montresor's house. The journey taken to the underground rooms were described as going through several rooms and down a long winding staircases that ended at length to the foot of the descent on the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors (745). The vaults were described as, "insufferably damp and encrusted with nitre that hangs like moss upon the vaults" (745-6), and having a "white web work which gleams from the cavern walls" (745). And it also described them passing through, "walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling" (746). The deep crypt was said to have a foulness sent in the air, the walls lined with human remains, and a mound of bones thrown down on the floor (746)."Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior recess, in depth about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven." (746-7) was the description that Poe gave to described the area where Fortunato would be chained for the rest of his life.

Perhaps the most striking details of the setting to evoke horror are the author's description of sounds.

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The sound of when he opens a bottle of wine to get Fortunato drunk. The sound of the Fortunato coughing while going down to the vault, and the jingling the bells on his cap when he walks and when Montresor pushed him into his life long vault. The drops of moisture trickling among the human bones when they cross under the river's bend. The low moaning cries from Fortunato when he was being locked into the vault by Montresor. The vibrations of the chains when Montresor locked Fortunato in them with a padlock. The laughter from Fortunato when he thought that it was all a joke. The silence and the loud and shrill screams when the intoxication of Fortunato wore off. And the sound of Montresor thinking to himself.

It is in the buildup of the settings that Edgar Allen Poe does his greatest work. He creates a vivid image for the reader which draws him or her deeper into the story. The details allow the reader to imagine that they are there and to see what the narrator is reading. The use of details in describing the settings is the ingredients that makes it a true horror story.

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