Edgar Allan Poe
“The Cask of Amontillado” is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s greatest stories. In this story Poe introduces two central characters and unfolds a tale of horror and perversion. Montresor, the narrator, and Fortunato, one of Montresor’s friends, are doomed to the fate of their actions and will pay the price for their pride and jealousy. One pays the price with his life and the other pays the price with living with regret for the rest of his life. Poe uses mystery, irony, and imagery to create a horrifying, deceptive, and perverse story.
Two of his most famous works “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Raven” were grim and mysterious stories with dark characters and mysterious plots to them. “The Cask of Amontillado” was a story about the dark pursuit of revenge, unlike “The Raven”, which invited us into the soul of a grieving man. Both stories were key and gave meaning to what Poe was going through during those years of his life. His wife was sick and dying from “tuberculosis” (385). He had already started grieving before “his wife died in 1847 (385). Poe wrote “The Raven in 1844” and “The Cask of Amontillado” in 1846 which are among his most popular works.
In “The Cask of Amontillado” the story is being told by Montresor who is the actual villain in the story. It is a chilling tale of revenge told as if it was a deathbed confession.” Many reviewers unfairly single Poe’s works out as coming directly from his subconscious, ignoring not only how carefully Poe chose his words and phrases but also the sources that inspired the stories” (E. A. Poe Society, “Autobiography”). His conscious was in a dark place while writing this story.
“He was fighting alcoholism through his stories” (McDonald). He was using his story as self-therapy, which inspired him to write “The Cask of Amontillado”. With years of planning and plotting ones revenge; it does not make you the victim. You must ask yourself what happened to forgiveness. What did Fortunato do to deserve this torture? The entire story is somewhat sketchy. It is not specifically clear what is going on, therefore the whole story becomes a mystery. The reason for Fortunato death is a mystery. Fortunato must have cause harm in the pass to Montresor or his family.
One simple fact I can see is Fortunato is a man of pride and greed. Montresor offered plenty of time to turn around and go back, but he knew by mentioning he would get Luchresi to taste the Amontillado which is a cherry, he would make Fortunato want to continue on this quest. Fortunato just could not accept being second to Luchresi. Poe never mentions what Luchresi actually do in the story. He uses Luchresi as a tool against Fortunato which gives the item that Luchresi is a collector of great wines or an exceptional wine taster.
In order to understand why Montresor is seeking revenge on Fortunato, we must understand how family in general played a part in his revenge. Montresor mentions in the story “The Montresors, were a great and numerous family (387)” and their motto was “Nemo me impune lacessit (387)” which means in Latin, “no one insults me with impunity”; this is the legend on the royal coats of arms of Scotland. By stating that, Montresor gave a hidden clue to that somewhere in his past his family was insulted by Fortunato. In a modern world, a family coat of arms and motto can hardly be the reason that would make you want to cause serious harm on another individual for the sake of revenge unless your family was of royal.
In Poe’s story that was already established without reasoning. Fortunato was an evil man who deserves to die without understanding the reasons behind his death. By using Montresor as the narrator we were made to believe he was the victim and Fortunato was the villain who deserves to die. The narrator told his story while the victim had no story. Montresor was just a greedy man full of pride and in the end his pride is what did him in.
Looking at the sources for “The Cask of Amontillado”, I can see that this story had a few and double meanings which at some points were meant to be written almost as a joke, but a joke with a point about Fortunato alcoholism. Montresor kept offering different drinks to Fortunato and watch with envy as he took he drink. “The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled; my own fancy grew warm with the Medoc” (388); Poe wrote this line as if he was an experience drinker. This line was too vivid. Only an experienced drinker would know that sensation when drinking alcohol.
Poe was a brilliant writer with a dark sense of reality. One of the best poems I read, “The Raven” is not only a tale of grief, but a story of triumph. The narrator, who I believe is Poe, is grieving the loss of his wife. As previously stated in this essay, Poe’s wife was dying from tuberculosis. During that time medicine was not as good as it is today, which lead me to believe Poe knew his wife was dying. “The Raven” is his way of grieving and trying to give reason to why his wife was leaving him in life.
The raven in the story is not just a dark mysterious bird; the raven is his version of God. When he asks his questions to the Raven he is speaking to his God. There are three questions that are asked to the raven throughout the story. The first question he asked the Raven was for his name when he asked; “Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore. Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s plutonian shore!”(46-47)
Plutonian means dark; Pluto was the Greek god of the dead and ruler of the underworld (1017). The narrator is in a dark place so he feels his God is from the underworld; a dark God. He did not get his answer, because all his answers were a Quote by the Raven “Nevermore (48).” The second question the narrator asks for is solace; which is comfort. He asked the raven; “Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted On this home by Horror haunted-tell me truly, I implore Is there-is there balm in Gilead?-tell me-tell me, I implore” (87-89) “Gilead is a region mentioned in the Bible; noted for its soothing ointments (1018).” He is seeking comfort from losing his life.
He is contemplating death. He didn’t want to live his life without Lenore; his wife. Still he does not get the answer he wants because the Raven only quotes “nevermore (90)”. Poe is suffering while writing this poem. He knows the days to his wife death are number. He is having a hard time picturing living without her which brings his last question that is asked to the raven. He asks the raven about the possibility of joining his lost beloved wife when he states: “Prophet!” said I, thing of evil!-prophet still, if bird or devil!- By that Heaven that bends above us by that God we both adore.Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”(92-95)
The raven still give him a straight forward reply of “Nevermore” (96). This puts the question to the curious might; is there actually a raven there or is he answering his own questions. In reality we know that ravens do not speak. The only reason Poe is using the raven is because it is a symbol of darkness and evil. He feels as if God has handed him an evil path in life. He is in that dark place. “The Raven” is a straightforward poem, whose topic is about the loss of a love one that is looking for answers where there is none.
Given what is going on in Poe’s personal life, it is by no means surprising to find that some elements appear prominently in both his verse and his fiction. At many levels, the tragedies that afflicted Poe and his volatile character left a large imprint upon his works. By understanding the main focus and theme of his stories and poems we must focus on that particular period of his life. Poe’s work is brilliant but like most writers some stories come from their own personal experiences. Most of Poe’s life was traumatic. He was born to parents that were both actors. “His parents died before he was three years old, and he was raised by Frances Allan and John Allen” (Biography).
Poe attended the finest academies in Richmond and was a distinguished student a few good universities back in that era until he ran out of financial support. He later enlisted in the army and published his first collection of poems. After marrying his cousin he became an exceptional literary critic occasionally achieving popular success. “The Raven” was his most popular poem. Today, Poe is acknowledged as a major literary figure, a master of Gothic atmosphere and interior monologue. “His poems and stories have influenced the literary schools of Symbolism and Surrealism as well as the popular genres of detective and horror fiction” (Biography). Poe writings will always leave you speculating what was his main goal and intentions.
“The Cask of Amontillado” was different from the Raven. It was not a poem. It was a story that use symbols in the words alone and not the objects. The bottle or cask of Amontillado as noted in the story is used as a tool to lure Fortunato down in the vault. Did Fortunato go just out of curiosity or did he go because he was an alcoholic who had a thirst for more alcohol. Fortunato is not only a character that interacts within the mind of Poe.
Fortunato is the alcohol addiction Poe is going through. Was Fortunato just the symbol he tries to use as his way of fighting off his alcoholism? He does start off his story with this line: “The Thousand Injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge”. I know most alcoholics have a lot of injuries that they try to drink away. Was Poe writing about the revenge on his alcoholism? Did he try his best to fight it or was it just more injuries to the insults he ventured upon? These are things we will never know unless we were Poe. I do believe that Fortunato was his injuries and his insults.
“The Raven” is just evil. There is nothing else to say about a dark black bird, especially one who talked as written in the poem. “The Raven” can be considered just like “The Cask of Amontillado” to be a story of revenge. “The Raven” is a story of revenge in the Poe’s mind. He uses characters as a fragment of his own imagination. The raven is only a symbol of his dark side retaliating against his good side.
As he sit and ask himself all those question of Lenore, he know there is truly no answer, but his dark side, the raven, pushes him to go on and on with the questions for which there is no answer. As Poe stated in the poem “Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer”; he was becoming more and more obsess with the raven which was his dark side. Lenore was only a symbol of his dying wife. Poe knew his questions had no meaning, but the way he wrote the poem was his answer to those questions.
Poe was the subject in both “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Raven”. When reading the story and poem for the first time, the reader just read without understanding what is actually happening in the writer’s mind, especially when reading “The Raven”. When I first read the Raven, I thought that it was a great rhyme. It would have made a good song. As I reach the ending of the poem, I was confused. My first thought was, Ravens cannot talk. Why does the raven keep repeating itself by saying “Nevermore”? Why didn’t Poe use a parrot instead of a Raven as an object in the story? It was simple.
This was a poem written out of the dark mind of a man going through problems in his life; a man who was trying to understand it all. As for “The Cask of Amontillado”, it was the story of a man trying to bury his alcoholism. He wanted to start a new life. The only way to do that is to bury your past, and that is what Poe was trying to do when he wrote “The Cask of Amontillado”. Poe will always be remembered for his writing style and his literature, but we must realize he was a man suffering through a lot of pain while he wrote his greatest literatures.