Theme of The Cask of Amontilldo? : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

What is the theme of THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO?

-- Anonymous, February 12, 2000


Uniquely applied retribution. Teaching someone a lesson they will not soon forget. LOL

-- Anonymous, February 15, 2000

I will have to agree with Tis about revenge, but the true meaning might be hidden deeper. The opening of the piece revolves around Fortunato being heavily into the spirits, or in layman's terms, quite the boozer. Edgar himself has been rumored to take a sip once to often. The story, I believe, actually is about a man trying to kill a part of himself-relating wholely to Edgar's life. Poe probably knew he had a problem with drinking and hated himself for that. However he knew he could never put an end to this in real life and related it to the page.

On a more morbid note, the story also can describe a man who destroys or has had his life destroyed by anquish. Fortunato name comes to mean fortune, or prosperity. The man drags his well-being into an evil place, the cellar, that he knows will be bad for it. In the end, the good of the man's life dies and he is forced to live in pain. This also relates to Poe's life. However it needs to be mentioned that the man does not like his fortune and lives better without it. This could come from the fact that Edgar so often lived with misery that it became more comforting than a peaceful life.

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2000


As you can see, my original response to the question above was rather short, to the point and while it may have been factual, it was intended more as a humorous reply to a question lacking in specifics. Clearly, my response did not do justice to Edgar A. Poe or his work and simply answered the fundamental premise of the story and failed, quite miserably, to address the story behind the story. I fully agree with you that there is more to the tale than mere revenge and Poe clarifies this in the first paragraph when Montressor states

I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

One of the things I enjoy most of Poes works is the diversity of opinions they seem to generate regarding the story he is attempting to impart to the reader. Obviously, what I tend to read into his intent is based, largely, upon my own education, knowledge and experiences. As a youngster, I recall being incredibly frustrated at simply understanding what he was attempting to convey in the first place. However, rigidly determined to unlock as much as I could, I faithfully maintained a Latin dictionary, an English dictionary, a thesaurus and a large volume of classical mythology in close proximity at all times. While I retain them to this day and refer to them only occasionally, they now stand, dog-eared and long abused, on my bookshelf. I find the internet to be much more practical and informative with an incredible wealth of data available.

Since those early days, I have come to view Poe, the man, much differently than I did as a young teenager. Forced upon me by class requirements, I instantly became absorbed by the Gold Bug. Today, I freely admit to being hopelessly addicted. (And I thank you Mrs. Elliott, where ever you are!) Yet, I no longer feel Poe was a dreary little madman consumed by regret, rage, alcohol and drugs. Now that my youth has been entirely exhausted by my childishness, I have come to see him as a rather extraordinary man, endowed with an enviable genius, a peerless and masterful manipulator of the written word and consumed only by the same frailties, fears and foibles as many of his contemporaries and, most probably, many of us today.

I would not deny for a moment that a sense of the man can be found in much of his writing. However, I no longer believe that his poems and tales directly parallel his life experiences nor do I believe that the bulk of material history on Poe supports this view. Perhaps, this is merely a result of my own maturity or old age providing me a broader measuring stick with which to gauge Poe, the man. I often think it strange that some feel Edgar Poe must surely have been an demented lunatic after reading The Tell Tale Heart or the Fall of the House of Usher. I often wonder how they would characterize Lewis Carroll after reading Jabberwocky or Mary Shelly after reading Frankenstein?

Personally, I tend to agree with those that feel that the darker view of Edgar Allan Poe is probably a direct result of Rufus W. Griswolds biographical representations of the man almost immediately following his death in 1849. Griswold and Poe were hardly to be considered fast friends at the time and, therefore, Griswolds views would seem to be suspect at best. Poes obituary written by Griswold (but signed Ludwig) in the Tribune on October 9, 1849 is very telling and gives some indication of this animosity. Be that as it may, I would eagerly agree to respectfully disagree with these rather pessimistic views. The subject matter is, most certainly, arguable and in the absence of a 150 year old eyewitness, it will remain so.

I do agree with one aspect of your assessment of Poe and it is a feature of the man that he wrote about directly in The Imp of the Perverse and clearly alluded to in The Raven. While I cant really speak authoritatively to the issue that Poe hated himself, clearly he must have been possessed of some curious fascination with the predisposition of man to act in a manner that was inconsistent with his own well being and against all intellectual reason. This predilection for self torture appears to be alive and well and, certainly was not unique to Poes time.

-- Anonymous, February 27, 2000

I believe that the theme runs along the lines of montresor battelling with himself, and his darker side. He despised Italians,and saw the fact of Fortunatos' expertise at wine tasting and identification as an affront to his own people, the French.Because he is talking in the first person,I believe his act of revenge had murdered all that was good in himself, therefore he failed at his goal of perfect revenge with impunity.

-- Anonymous, October 24, 2003

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