Poe, "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846)

(a) words, Latin; Paris catacombs
(b) Poe: life, aims (Geddes, 271-2); Poe on the web

Plot. See Geddes, 394. Origin in Aristotle's Poetics (see remote link)

-- a series of events, causally related
-- originating within nature or situation of character(s)
-- opposed to form

See Geddes also for: Protagonist (395); Exposition (389), Action (385), Conflict (388), Climax (387), Dénouement (388), Closure (387). Note the origin of most of these terms in drama.

See Poe on dénouement: "every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before anything be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention." (Geddes, 377)

Structure: Episodes (not Aristotle's sense of episode!)

Six sections (this not definitive):
1. Revenge p. 272: Montresor's motivation (largely exposition)
2. The lure p. 273: meets Fortunato and flatters his vanity over wine to lure him back to his palazzo
3. The descent pp. 273 "There were no ..." -- 274 "And I to your long life": Montresor appears reluctant as he leads him down into catacombs, gives him wine
4. The family honour pp. 274 "The wine sparkled ..." -- 275 "glow than flame": Montresor coat of arms; whether he is a mason
5. The last vault pp. 275 "At the most remote ..." -- 276 "the Amontillado": Fortunato is led into the final niche, padlocked
6. The immurement pp. 275-6: Montresor builds a wall across the niche, taunts Fortunato, leaves him; this occurred 50 years ago

Episodes, principles for establishing: look for unity of setting in time or place, or both; if this were a movie, where you would make a cut; whether there is a shift in topic, or tone; and, in particular, look for some shift in focus or intensity towards the end of the episode that builds on what occurs earlier in the episode.

Poe's "dénouement"; to create "a certain unique or single effect" (377) -- aims at a surprising twist at the end; all prior incidents in the story lead to this. Analysis of his story into sections suggests how it is constructed out of episodes, each of which contains its own distinctive "twist" at or near its end. Using scheme above (NB. not the only possible construal of the story!):

1. Revenge Induction; no episodic twist
2. The lure "I suffered him to lead me ...": reveals manipulative power of Montresor
3. The descent "'Drink,' I said ... nodded to me familiarly": further entraps Fortunato by clouding his judgement with wine, eliciting friendship; + "the buried that repose around us" -- dramatic irony
4. The family honour "producing a trowel ... 'You jest'": Montresor acting for his ancestors and, if not a mason, also gaining ascendency over the inner circles who are; trowel a grotesque foreshadowing that will turn symbolic instrument to literal
5. The last vault "all the little attentions in my power": first taunting of Fortunato, shows psychopathic nature of Montresor for first time
6. The immurement "My heart grew sick -- on account of the dampness of the catacombs": his monstrous nature (playing with reader now!); not to mention destruction of Fortunato and that this all happened 50 years ago

Other features:

Stylistic note: consider word choices, as in "fettered him to the granite" (not "wall")

Setting: essential to point of story, to possibility of being buried alive; ludicrous contrast of carnival (motley and bells) -- carnival suggests setting is Rome

Point of story?

Poe and the Gothic -- reason in madness (disclosure)

Revenge: negative emotion, draws us in

Point of view: told in first person by a psychopath; what does it mean to share his point of view? Empathy, identify / vs. observe character?

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Document prepared September 14th 2002