Book Review: Edgar Allan Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado”
By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
Edgar Allan Poe is a celebrated author, perhaps America’s finest, of such works as “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” “Fifty Stories for Boys,” and “The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.” Edgar Allan Poe is known for his “poems, stories, criticism and journalism”-as well as literary devices like onomatopoeia. (Gaimain xiii) John Webster described Poe as “obsessed with death….as seeing the skull beneath the skin.” (Gaiman xiii) In Poe’s short story, “Cask of Amontillado,” he writes as if his own epilogue, every line a connotation or personification of the ultimate- death. “Cask of Amontillado’s” main protagonist was “Fortunado,” or the personification of luck or lack there-of, which also equals death. “Fortunado” is akin to the “American comic masterpiece,” “The Confederacy of Dunces” where Ignatius J. Reilly makes deep sighs as Kennedy’s main character, to “oh Fortuna.” (Kennedy 1) Cask of Amontillado is set in the din of the Parisian Catacombs where Poe’s characters seem to be wandering around. Poe described death with “bells tolling,” or a “Fierce light,” or “masonry,” or “a white web,” or to extinguish the “flambeaux.” (Poe 1019-1024)
Poe’s death theme brilliantly leads the reader, as if every “line” of life leads to death. The tone becomes macabre and darkly comedic when Poe cites the grave dimensions as “depth 4 ft, width 3 ft, height 6 or 7 ft.” (Poe 1022) You must read Poe carefully, listening for assonance or onomatopoeia, or alliteration. Poe’s Tone is reflected in his use of personification of death. None of Poe’s character appears to be literal or living, they all appear to be kicking over a pile of bones. In the end, Poe’s theme suggests that all equals death, every word, every line, every breath, one arrives at the same domino stance. Poe’s “Cask” could perhaps be a “flask” juxtaposed with a casket; one could drink themselves to death- “all roads lead to death” was Poe’s theme.
Kennedy, John, “A Confederacy of Dunces,” Louisiana State University Press, 1980, p. 1
Poe, Edgar Allan, “Cask of Amontillado,” Richard Abercarian, Marvin Klotz and Samuel Cohen, eds. Literature: The Human Experience: Reading and Writing. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016, Print, pp. 1019-1024
Poe, Edgar Allan, “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” Barnes and Noble, 2011
Richard Abercarian, Marvin Klotz and Samuel Cohen, eds. Literature: The Human Experience: Reading and Writing. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016, Print