The Setting in "The Cask of Amontillado"
In the story “The Cask of Amontillado,” by Edgar Allan Poe, a maddened narrator, Montresor, plans to get revenge on a friend, Fortunato, for some unexplained injustice. The readers learn that Montresor lures him into the catacombs to try a cask of amontillado and then seals him away to die there. This plot, though relatively straightforward, leads the readers into an experience of horror. The story’s setting contributes greatly to the increasing atmosphere of horror, as Poe’s treatments of time and place cause the readers to predict, to fear, and tremble in the unfolding action.
The physical time in “The Cask of Amontillado” produces an element of tension and foreboding to the story. The selection of the time and place also played a significant role in the story. The festival gives Montresor an excellent opportunity not only to appear in disguise, but to locate his inebriated companion and lure him into his deadly lair. According to Womack, Poe introduces us to a familiar carnival atmosphere of indulgence that one can today associate with Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Carnival is the time of celebration and happiness for everybody and for Fortunato to enjoy the pleasures of the
Just as the time in which "The Cask of Amontillado" is set infuses the story with an atmosphere of dread, so do the physical surroundings in which the bulk of the plot unfolds. This story is perfectly set in the catacombs with the walls lined with human remains. Montresor informs the readers that when he first encounters Fortunato, with revenge on his mind, it is "about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season" (Poe 217). This atmosphere of horror increases much more as Montresor describes his descent with Fortunato into the vaults. The perfect crime has taken place half a century which gives the readers the ultimate sense of the irrational nature of Montresor"tms deed - a deed that seems horrible, but which increase in horror because it has been so long and so successfully concealed. Convinced by the description of time and place that the worst has happened, the readers are doubly troubled by the disturbing revelation made in the story"tms closing words. Thus, the technique in which Poe describes both time and place in "The Cask of Amontillado" serves to greatly enhance the effect of this tale upon the readers. Womack further indicates that, "the location quickly changes from the lighthearted activities associated with such a festival to the damp, dark catacombs under Montresor's palazzo, which helps to establish the sinister atmosphere of the story". The sense of darkness reappears and haunts thoughts as Montresor describes the indoor setting to which he leads his friend. Not astonishingly, Montresor implies that the time when he puts the finishing touches on the entombment of his prey is midnight. Based on "Overview: "The Cask of Amontillado"tm by Edgar Allan Poe," the slow horror of the story progresses as Montresor promises Fortunato a taste of amontillado, and he leads his friend to walk through underground chambers where the "buried"repose around" them, past "long walls of piled skeletons" into the "innermost recesses of the catacombs" where "drops of moisture trickle among the bones" (Poe 219). Again, in "Overview: "The Cask of Amontillado"tm by Edgar Allan Poe," "montresor is an old man by the time he relates this fifty-year-old crime, possibly as a confession before death.