The descriptive details in The Cask of Amontillado not only appeal to the senses of the audience, but also show that the narrator has a memory that has been haunted with details that he can recall fifty years later. The vividness with which [Poe] transcribes his sensory experiences contributes powerfully to the response his stories invoke (Fagin 202). In The Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allan Poe uses captivating images to descriptively tell a tail of revenge, while appealing to the senses of the audience. In The Cask of Amontillado, Montressor seeks to have revenge on Fortunato for an unknown insult.
Montressor confesses at the beginning of the story, The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge (Lowell 214). Montresor wants to not only punish, but punish with impunity(214). The nature of this insult is not made clear; however, the reader is led to believe that the insult changed Montresors social status. Montresor says to Fortunato You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. This leads the reader to believe that Montresor once had high social status, but that status has changed due to the insult by Fortunato.
Fortunato, entering the scene wearing a jesters costume, is unaware of Montesors evil intentions of murder. Montresor persuades Fortunato, who prides himself on his connoisseurship in wine, to go into the family vaults so he can taste and identify some Amontillado (Lowell 215). Along the way Fortunato becomes extremely drunk and unaware of Montresors evil plot of murder. Montresor then proceeds to lead him through the catacombs and finally buries him alive behind a wall. Montresor calls to Fortunato, but the only reply that he receives comes in the jingling of the bells from Fortunatos cap (222).
The fact that the narrator mentions the jingling of the bells several times after fifty years indicates that he is haunted with a memory of their sound. Poe knew that the audience would relate the terrifying sound of the bells to premature burial. Premature burial is a concern during the 19th century when Poe writes this short story (Platizky 1). Live burial is practiced during this time as a form of capital punishment in Europe (1). It was a Rite of social purification (2). Being buried alive was the severe punishment for sexual offenses and grand larceny (Van Dlumen 6).
With Poes fear of being buried alive these bells have a horrifying sound to him. Being buried alive is such a fear during this time that many people (especially the wealthier classes) have special coffins made (Platizky 1). These coffins have special sounding devices so that if a person is buried alive they can set off this type of alarm (1). Also, another common practice during this time involves the placing of bells on the limbs of the recently dead(1). Poe uses the horrifying sound of the bells to appeal to the auditory senses of the audience. The sound of these bells has a freighting effect on the audience.
Every time Montresor takes special notice of the sound of the bells the audience is made aware of the surrounding silence. Poe knew well the electrifying effect of sudden silence in the midst of revelry, revelry stages as escape from intolerable fear. His silences are as eloquent as those of Chekhov, except that the emotional lava with which Poes silences are charged is different (Fagin 202). His silences are eloquent because they alternate with sound(202). The bells upon his cap jingles as he strode is one sentence in which Montresor takes specific notice of the sound of these bells.
The audience is made extremely aware of the specific notice of the sound of these bells. After Montresor finishes building the wall there came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. The ironic jingling of the bells which marks the end of The Cask of Amontillado is as perfect a curtain as could be devised (Fagin 204). The reader is left with only the sound of the bells, a sound that even they cannot help but recall after reading the story. One can imagine the effect the sound of these bells would have when the story is performed. The final and most memorable sound would be the jingling of the bells.
Through the ironic naming of the characters Poe gives visual images to the readers. The naming of Fortunato, which is ironic since he is anything but fortunate, suggests a lucky or fortunate person (Womack 5). He is given the name Fortunato though to make him appear as a fool (4). Montresor says that Fortunato, like his country men, was a quack (Lowell 214). Montresors name being associated with treasure gives the reader an image of a rich and powerful man (Gruesser 1). Throughout the story Montresor uses verbal irony numerous times to foreshadow his intentions to the audience.
One use of this verbal irony is in Montresors concern for Fortunatos health. Montresor tells Fortunato that his health is precious and they should turn back so Fortunato does not become ill. Fortunato responds saying, The cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. Montresor knowing how Fortunato will die responds True-true. Another example of verbal irony is occurs when Montresor toasts to Fortunatos long life. Verbal irony is also apparent when Montresor calls Fortunato friend. When he makes it clear to the reader that he is seeking revenge on an enemy.
Montresor also referred to him as the noble Fortunato. He heard a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato(Lowell 221). In the fact that he is retelling this story after fifty years, one is led to believe that Montresor must feel guilt for the murder that was committed. Fortunato enters the scene wearing a jesters cosume. This jesters costume coincides with the setting of the carnival. The costume is also appropriate for the story because Montresor wants to make a fool out of him (Womack 4). The audience can picture Fortunato in this foolish costume.
Montresor wears a roquelaure which is a cape making him appear evil and mysterious. Montresor also puts on a mask of black silk which adds to his horrifying and evil appearance (Lowell 216). While Fortunato is dressed as a fool Montresor dresses as an executioner (Platizky 1). Montresor must dress as this executioner to let the audience know that he is planning on murdering Fortunato. Another instance where the narrator is remarkably descriptive occurs in the depiction of the nitre filled catacombs. The picture the narrator paints a picture in the audiences mind that captivates the imagination.
The picture appeals to the readers visual sense in such a way that we enjoy reading the story even more. The Cask of Amontillado, by Edgar Allan Poe, is an extremely enjoyable story to read and study. Poe captures the audiences attention by using descriptive details in that appeal to the senses of the audience. The descriptive details in this story not only appeal to the audiences auditory and visual senses, but also to their sense of humor. Through the extraordinarily memory of the narrator as he recounts these details, the audience is able to see that he is haunted with details that he can recall fifty years later.