“The Cask Of Amontillado” Reflection Questions
irony (i-RAH-nee): a literary term referring to how a person, situation, statement,
or circumstance is not as it would actually seem. Many times it is the exact opposite
of what it appears to be. There are many types of irony, the three most common
being verbal irony, dramatic irony, and cosmic irony. Verbal irony occurs when
either the speaker means something totally different than what he is saying or the
audience realizes, because of their knowledge of the particular situation to which
the speaker is referring, that the opposite of what a character is saying is true.
Verbal irony also occurs when a character says something in jest that, in actuality, is
true. In Julius Caesar, Marc Antony’s reference to Brutus being an honorable man is
an example of verbal irony. Marc Antony notes all of the good deeds Julius Caesar
did for his people while, more than once, he asks the rhetorical question, “Did this in
Caesar seem ambitious?” Antony uses this rhetorical question to try to convince his
audience that Caesar is not ambitious, presenting Brutus as a dishonorable man
because of his claim that Caesar was ambitious. Dramatic irony occurs when facts
are not known to the characters in a work of literature but are known by the
audience. Cosmic irony suggests that some unknown force brings about dire and
Throughout the story, Poe uses verbal and dramatic irony to build suspense,
foreshadow the ending, and add a touch of macabre humor. Here are some examples
The Title: The word cask, meaning wine barrel, is derived from the same root word
used to form casket, meaning coffin. Thus, the cask figuratively represents
Fortunato’s Name: The Italian name Fortunato suggests good fortune, luck.
However, Fortunato is anything but fortunate; he is going to his death.
Fortunato’s Costume: Fortunato dresses as a court jester. His festive outfit contrasts
with the ghastly fate that awaits him. From time to time, the bell on his cone-shaped
hat jingles–a nice comic touch from Poe.
Reference to Masons: Fortunato asks Montresor whether his is a mason, meaning a
member of the fraternal order of Freemasonry. Montresor says he is indeed a
mason. However, he is using the word to mean a craftsman who builds with stone
and mortar (because he will be building Fortunato’s “tomb,” a stone wall.)
Poe also uses irony frequently in the dialogue. For example, when Montresor runs
into Fortunato, he says, “My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met.” Later, when
Montresor pretends to be concerned about Fortunato’s hacking cough as they
descend into the vaults, Montresor says, “We will go back. Your health is precious.
Your are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as I once was. You are a
man to be missed.” Fortunato then tells Montresor not to worry: “The cough is a
mere nothing; it will not kill me. I will not die of a cough.” To this reply, Montresor
says, “True–true.” The reader at this point can almost see a devilish gleam in
Montresor’s eyes, for he knows exactly how Fortunato will die.” Later, Montresor
opens a bottle of wine and toasts Fortunato: “To your long life,” he says.
1. Edgar Allan Poe's gothic tale, “The cask of Amontillado”, is really a story
about the loss of face, or "amor propio".
What is the expression in your language for the loss of face? What other
English words come to mind when you think of the word "face" in this sense? Losing your reputation.
2. How did Fortunato cause Montresor to lose face in the story? no specific reason for the insult.
The third paragraph of the story appears in full below. Read it carefully and try
to imagine how Fortunato might have insulted Montresor.
"He had a weak point—this Fortunato—although in other regards he was a man to be
respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few
Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit
the time and opportunity to practice imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires.
In painting and gemmary Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of
old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially;—I was skillful in
the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could."
3. Does Montresor seem to have much respect for Italians? Which lines in the
paragraph above reveal his contempt? the italians are all quacks he said.
4. What was Fortunato's insult? No specific insult listed.
5. Why does Montresor entertain Fortunato with wines from his collection? He can lure him and he appeals to him. Also trying to get him drunk.
6. In what two ways does Montresor imprison Fortunato? Chained him up.
The story, The Cask of Amontillado, first appeared in an anthology of Poe's
stories entitled Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Arabesque comes from the
word Arab and refers to ornaments, decorations and motifs in Arabic art, where
figures of flowers, fruits and sometimes animal outlines appear in elaborate
patterns of interlaced lines, particularly those which have been borrowed by
other cultures. Such arabesque patterns are reflected in some of the designs and
motifs of the batik of Indonesia and Malaysia.
By analogy, then, an arabesque story is one of intricate design, which is told
through the use of fanciful language. Because arabesque graphic designs
sometimes depict fantastic creatures, Poe and others also applied this term to
tales that dealt with fantastic or supernatural happenings. Grotesque refers to
something distorted, ugly, abnormal, fantastic, or bizarre to the point of being
ludicrous or absurd. In a grotesque story, characters are physically or
psychologically deformed and engage in actions that may be abnormal or
7. In what ways is The Cask of Amontillado grotesque? It is a plot about revenge and murder.
8. First, which of Montresor's actions are abnormal? He cried and mocked his actions when he was yelling for help.
9. Is there anything grotesque about Fortunato? He was cocky and mean.
There are also numerous comic touches that Poe adds to this grotesque tale. Try
to find 10 examples of Poe's use of grotesque humor. Follow this trail of humor
chronologically through the story.
•Fortunato's name means lucky in Italian. This is ironic language play, as he was
hardly the lucky one in this story.
•Fortunato is dressed in a court jester's or fool's garb, complete with striped
and cap and bells.
•The jingling of the bells of the cap in the catacombs.
•Montresor's exaggerated concern for Fortunato's health.
•A joke: Not knowing Montresor plans to kill him, Fortunato says, I shall not die
a cough. To which Montresor replies, True-true.
•Pun: Montresor telling Fortunato he is a mason. (Fortunato was referring to
members of the society of Freemasons). Montresor reveals the trowel (a tool
used to apply mortar or cement) which he will use to build the wall which
•Fortunato's drunken condition.
•Fortunato bumping into the dead end of the niche where he will be entombed
and then looking bewildered.
•Fortunato's delirious laughter at the end.
•Another pun: Let us be gone. Montresor repeats Fortunato's words, not saying
that they shall leave together, but that Fortunato will be gone from this life.
POE ON SHORT STORIES
Many critics consider Poe to be the father of the modern short story. He was the
first writer to define the short story as a distinct literary form. In a review of
Nathaniel Hawthorne's anthology, Twice-Told Tales in Graham's Magazine, May
1842, he described his personal theory on how to construct a "tale":
5 rules of short story writing following Poe's principles
Try to make a list of 5 rules for writing a short story as implied in Poe's essay. A
keyword has been given below to help with scanning
"A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to
accommodate his incidents: but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique
or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents—he then combines
such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial
sentence tends not to the outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In
the whole composition there should be no work written, of which the tendency, direct or
indirect, is not to the one pre-established design. And by such means, with such care and
skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with
a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction."
1. Don't write on your own past or reflections.
2. Focus on a single event
3. First sentence must hook the reader.
4. Poe says you need a clear plot
5. Leave the reader with one emotion that is clear.