"Terror Created" An Analysis Of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask Of Amontillado."

1522 words - 6 pages

Terror CreatedOne need not wonder any longer why Edgar Allen Poe was a master of the terror genre after reading "The Cask of Amontillado". Through the use of tension and ambiguity Poe has succeeded in creating suspense and terror right up to the very end of his story. It is an excellent example of how tension, imagery, and irony, combine to create an overwhelming effect of terror.The story begins with Montresor declaring his intention of revenge on Fortunato. "I must not only punish, but punish with impunity," leaves little doubt that he intends the revenge to be extremely severe (1146). So, upon the initial meeting and throughout the sequence of events, he is incredibly amiable, calling Fortunato "my friend" and declaring how pleased he was to see him, the tension begins to build (1146). The more solicitous Montresor becomes, the greater the tension. The friendly greeting "my dear Fortuanto" magnifies the irony in "you are luckily met" (1146). We guess that Fortunato is anything other than lucky in meeting Montresor this night. The clear statement of intent to "make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong," juxtaposed with the graciousness and eagerness with which he addresses Fortunato creates the tension (1146).Another masterful tool of suspense is the vagueness of the "thousand injuries" and the ultimate insult (1146). If we knew the crime we might be able to anticipate the level of retribution, but because the wrongs are completely omitted we are unaware of what to expect. We cannot even guess at the level of revenge, or offense, based on our knowledge of either character because they also are depicted vaguely. Montresor hints at his own character when he suggests that those who know the nature of his soul will also know that he would not have tipped his hand by uttering a threat (1146). The hint is an unobtrusive view into the possibility of a sly and devious character. Likewise, the character of Fortunato is only suggested by referring to him as "a man to be respected and even feared" (1146). Then the vagueness is solidified with the use of the word "quack" and a comical depiction of Fortunato as pompously adopting expertise regarding painting and gemmary to impress the British and Austrian millionaires (1146). One of the lessons we learn from this vagueness is the successful creation of tension by the gaps, as well as the hints.In addition, Poe amplifies this vagueness through his use of setting. The complete darkness of the reader into the upcoming events is emphasized by the dark, claustrophobic setting of the vaults. The story takes place as Montresor escorts Fortunato "down a long and winding staircase"(1147). The word "down" suggesting the depths of hell, and "winding" further illustrating the possibilities of the unexpected; winding, as in twists and turns (1147). The setting adds to the already suspenseful story. Another aspect of the setting is the mention that the whole event takes place during carnival season, which...

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