“The Cask of Amontillado” is one of Edgar Allen Poe’s finest works. His tale of horror involves Montressor, an Italian aristocrat who will stop at nothing to gain revenge upon Fortunato, an arrogant and conceited connoisseur of wine. Poe uses foreshadowing, irony, and symbolism to gain the reader’s interest and to set the suspenseful mood of the story.
The first indication of irony is in Fortunato’s name itself. The name means a man of good fortune and hope, but as we see at the end of the story he “unfortunately” dies. The setting at the beginning of the story is ironic because Montressor and Fortunato meet in the middle of one of Venice’s carnivals. These carnivals are associated with feelings of joy and happiness and yet this story is dark and horrid. While walking in the catacombs, Montressor states that he will drink to Fortunato’s long life, but we know that his life will not last much longer. A final example of irony is evident in the stonemason exchange where Fortunato is talking about the brotherhood of the stonemasons and Montressor is talking about being an actual labouring mason. This is ironic because it is Montressor’s skill in masonry that eventually kills Fortunato.
Another of Poe’s favourite literary devices displayed in the story is symbolism. Symbolism is when something has a meaning that is not immediately apparent to the reader. In the early stages of the story we see that Fortunato is adorned in colourful clothing and is wearing a hat with bells on it which is associated with court jesters or jokers. This symbolizes that Montressor will make a fool out of Fortunato. Another example of symbolism evident in the story is the black mask and costume which Montressor wears. This symbolises the evil that he possesses and the death he will cause. The word cask in the title is symbolic of Fortunato’s demise because by the end of the story he will be entombed in a casket of stone.