The Cask of Amontillado Literary Devices

Published: 2022-08-30
The Cask of Amontillado Literary Devices
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Edgar Allan Poe
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1580 words
14 min read

The Cask of Amontillado is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in November 1846. It also happened to be Poe's last short story before his death in 1849 ( The story follows a tale of two men, Fortunato and Montresor, who seem to be friends or close associates. The story is told in first person narrative from Montresor's point of view. Supposedly, according to Montresor, Fortunato insulted the former's family name, but the exact manner of mockery is not in the story. The abuse of the Montresor name inspires the narrator Montresor to seek revenge against Fortunato.

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Montresor takes advantage of Fortunato's love for good wine to lure him into his family dungeons where, surprisingly (or unsurprisingly for Poe) he entombs Fortunato, murdering without even an ounce of guilt. The literary devices in the cask of Amontillado are unique to Poe's style of writing; there is the plot with the twist at the end, themes unconcerned with morals, symbolism, imagery, hyperbole and unique characters (Elhefnawy 2). This essay will examine the way Poe uses the literary devices to convey his message or instead tell the story in the manner only Poe could.


The setting of Poe's short story is somewhere in Europe, possibly Italy. The narrator mentions the fact that Fortunato was Italian: "Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit... Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a "quack"-but in the matter of old wines he was sincere" (Poe 3). The setting is hence in Italy, the town is unnamed, but it is a festival season a "Carnival" of some sorts where people dress up. Fortunato dressed as a clown, while Montresor wears a mask of "black silk" over his eyes and a French cloak. The carnival in the story is an essential setting for this Gothic works because it serves to show the importance of freedom. The two make their way to the underground catacombs of the Montresor family.

The catacombs are creepy and scary. In the tunnels of the catacombs, there are bones piled up together with casks and vaults. The vaults are deep and extensive; at some point, the narrator describes them as similar in the style to the ones of Paris. Montresor leads Fortunato to a hollow wall, a niche where he chains the latter and walls him up using a trowel, stone, and mortar. At the end of the story, the narrator informs the reader that it has been fifty years; hence the setting can also be a memory.


There are two main characters in the story. Montresor is a grudging man. He is the lord of the Montresor family He uses the pride of his family to justify his actions for committing a foul murder. The manner, in which Montressor achieved his goal, is so cold and calculating, the man is a sociopath. He bided his time from when Fortunato supposedly insulted him to the time that he exacted his revenge, he kept smiling. Montresor is deceptive, like the devil (Saxton 143). In French, Montresor translates to "my treasure." There is a big possibility that Montresor is French, he certainly despises Italians from the manner in which he views them as "quack." Montresor is a grand manipulator. He used Fortunato's love of good wine to get him where he wanted, buried in the crypt of the Montresors.

Fortunato is unfortunate, unlike his name. He is reckless, not pausing to think about Montresor's intentions. Fortunato loves wine and drinking excessively; it is his weakness. When it comes to matters concerning wine and alcohol, he regards himself as the expert: "Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry (Poe 4)" He is gullible and a little too self-indulgent. There are high chances that if he did not drink that much, that he might have caught on to Montresor's plan. Fortunato is very naive; there is a point he realizes that Montresor is a liar when he makes the Masons gesture, and his companion does not understand, yet Montresor had conceded he was a mason like Fortunato. The surprising fact about Fortunato is that he is a Mason; a Freemason! From the way he is portrayed in the tale, it is hard to see how, as Freemasons had a reputation for being clever and discrete, unlike Fortunato who comes across as stupid and careless. The other named character Luchesi is a minor character. He is a wine and alcohol merchant or expert, beyond that, we know nothing about him.


First of all the title "The cask of Amontillado" is symbolic for the casket and not a wine cask as Fortunato had imagined. The wall where he is trapped is Fortunato's casket. The carnival season setting is also symbolic for a prime gothic time when horrors can happen at any time. Fortunato wears a "tightfitting party-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells" (Poe 3). The tight-fitting trousers, cap, and bells are the dress of a jester or a fool. Poe is showing us the foolish side of Fortunato. He is gullible or foolish.

On the other hand, Montresor wears a black silk mask and a knee-length cloak, to show that he is hiding his true self; meaning he has evil intentions for Montresor. The coat of arms of the Montresor shows a human foot crushing a serpent, which is symbolic for revenge for those they consider evil or guilty of wrongdoing (Brighthubeducation). The wine Amontillado could itself symbolize "Death" so that the tile of the story translates to "The Casket of Death."The long passageway littered with bones in the catacombs is a foreshadowing for Fortunato's eventual demise.

Amoral Themes

In good stories, the thieves get captured; the criminals are generally punished while the morally upright are rewarded. However, Edgar Allan Poe wrote gothic and horror stories, hence the original or amoral themes. The two main themes are revenge and death. Montresor gets his revenge on Fortunato, but there is no mention if it satisfied him fifty years later (Baraban 49). Revenge is the main theme and on the other side of it is betrayal (Fortunato supposedly betrayed Montresor). Again, Poe uses an unreliable narrator (Montresor) who is more concerned about telling about his methods for revenge rather than the manner of insult he suffered from Fortunato.

It is up to the reader to judge Montresor's actions. One cannot help but sympathize with the "ignoramus" Fortunato who is the subject of revenge for actions he has completely forgotten about if at all he wronged Montresor. Death is another theme here; it stares at Fortunato at the face all through the walk in the underground catacomb. He cannot escape death; in fact, he unwittingly invites it. That Montresor still thinks about what he did to Fortunato fifty years in the past may mean that he feels guilty for his actions. He is most certainly guilty of committing murder, and he is free after fifty years.


There are many cases of irony, for example, the name Fortunato means fortunate in Italian, yet he is very unlucky. Montresor in French means my treasure, but he only cares for himself and the family name; he treasures much less besides that. In the damp catacomb, Montresor ironically suggests to Fortunato that they should return, yet he wants Fortunato right there. In the same manner, Montresor had told his servants that he would be away till the morning and they were not to leave yet they left.

The motto of the Montresor family is "Nemo me impune lacessit" (Poe 6) which translates to "Nobody attacks me with impunity." The same motto also happens to be the motto of Scotland (Silverman 310)! It is ironical that Fortunato is the one asking about the Montresor motto. When they drink in the catacombs, Fortunato toasts to "the buried that repose around us" while Montresor retorts, "And I to your long life" (Poe 6) The toast is ironical because Fortunato is about to join the dead around while Montresor knows that his associate is going to die.


In conclusion, The Cask of Amontillado, makes the reader think for a long while after reading. There are facts about the story that can be grasped only after further research, for example, the motto of the Montresor name coinciding with that of Scotland. There are several examples of symbolism, irony and different character traits. The short story is a true gothic genre, with themes of death and revenge. Besides that, the plot happens through the point of view of an unreliable narrator, hence much of it is subject to interpretation, rhetoric and critical evaluation. At the end though, it is a tale of the macabre it is funny for its seriousness, written in almost careless but very calculated way that only Poe could.

Works Cited

Baraban, Elena V. "The motive for murder in" The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe." Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature (2004): 47-62.

Brighthubeducation. n.d. 31 October 2018 <>

Elhefnawy, Nader. "Edgar Allan Poe's THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO." The Explicator (2018): 1-3.

Poe, Edgar Allan, Andrej Arko, and Ales Berger. Edgar Allan Poe. Sterling Publishing Company, 1995.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846)

Saxton, Audrey. "The Devil's in the Details: A Characterization of Montresor in Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." Criterion: A Journal of Literary Criticism 10.1 (2017): 16. 137-145

Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991.

"The Cask of Amontillado." Short Stories for Students. 1 Nov. 2018 <>.

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