Poe himself was known as a literary critic and many critic have had their own opinions when trying to understand his unique writings.


Benton: This dialogue amounts to a duel with words, and it is unusual because Poe rarely depended on much dialogue in constructing his stories. If “The Cask” seems simply a story of a clever and successful revenge, it is also the story of a failed quest that goes much beyond the simple quest for the cask of Amontillado. Various images in the text suggesting archetypal acts such as the quest for the original substance or the universal solvent, the quest for the Holy Grail, and the quest for Solomon’s Secret Vault and the Stone of Foundation connected with the Tetragammaton (a Jewish and later a Masonic concern). As a whole “The Cask” consists of two narratives, each of which has its appropriate dialectic and rhetoric. Montresor tells of the motive and the execution of the perfect crime he committed in the fictional past (50 years previously) to a silent, unidentified listener in the fictional present. He also states that the Cask” is parody the social codes of “the point of honor” and “the duel to the death” by arranging the dialectic between Montresor and Fortunato in a manner suggestive of a duel with swords. The dialogue is so arranged as to suggest the basic maneuvers of swordplay: the attacker lunges and thrusts. The defender parries and counter parries. But it is not a real duel he provides but simply a duel with words. Summing it up he states that the theme of”The Cask” is a mixture of such sayings as “Revenge is sweet” and “What passes will be sweet”.

Scott: “Montresor’s  last words “Yes, For the love of God! can be read ironically, in that his motives might be taken to be pride, amour-propre, indeed anything but the love of God. Again, they could be interpreted as a sign of insanity, in that Montresor is by now echoing everything that Fortunato says and does.  I suggest that they are best taken literally, for if they are, other details fall into place. Furthmore I have no doubt that Poe primarily saw the tale as a horrific story of revenge and entombment. Montresor executes God’s wrath on Fortunato. “The Cask of Amontillado” also serves as an exploration of the darkness in the heart of Calvinism’s God.”

Delaney: ” Montresor’s revenge has had the desired cathartic effect (just as writing the story presumably had the desired cathartic effect for Poe, who was probably using his superb creative imagination to sublimate his anger at some contemporary). Montresor says: “Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them” (295). “Disturbed” is an odd word but the right choice. It might seem more appropriate at first glance to say that no one has “discovered” the body; but “disturbed” suggests that Montresor thinks of himself as having been the conscientious custodian of his former enemy’s remains. This is further suggested by the fact that Montresor has entombed Fortunato among the bones of his own ancestors, of whom he is so proud. Fortunato has become, in a sense, a member of the family. It must be remembered that the letter was written fifty years after the event it describes. Montresor could hardly be expected to harbor the same feelings of hatred toward a pathetic skeleton. Poe had the genius to realize that his narrator was not the same person who enticed Fortunato into the depths of his catacombs. The “preconceived effect” is indeed achieved to the discriminating reader’s “fullest satisfaction.” Love can turn to hate and often does; but hate–and certainly in Poe’s perverse world–can turn to affection. The feelings Montresor experiences after his revenge has been exacted are not uncommon, either in literature or in life.



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