Irony in “Cask of Amontillado”
In most cases, irony is used in stories that contain instances of humor, but this is not the case in “The Cask of Amontillado”, which is essentially a dark and tragic story. Irony in the story is used as a manifestation of the evil deeds that Montresor wishes to commit against Fortunato, who does not know the terrible end that he is about to face. This style helps to keep the story in suspense while at the same time developing it main characters towards a climax that is both dramatic and tragic.
From its very beginning, irony in the story is depicted as being extremely dark and it can be used as a means of forecasting the terrible event that will occur later. Its first instance can be seen through a contrast made between the carnival and the catacombs underneath Montresor’s house, where the carnival is depicted as a happy place where all its attendants are having a wonderful time. Irony in this comparison is seen when Montresor states “it was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend” (Poe 212), in reference to the happiness that and a sense of joy that is taking place within it. This statement is later contrasted to the catacombs when Montresor states that “its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris” (Poe 215), and this shows not only its scary nature, but is also a sign of Fortunato’s unfortunate death. The irony in these two situations comes about through Montresor’s determination to have his revenge against Fortunato despite the joyous happenings taking place at the carnival. Despite the festivities going on outside, Montresor wants to wall up his friend in a niche inside the catacombs where he is to end his life miserably.
Irony in this story can also be seen in the name Fortunato, which is Italian for fortunate, a situation which this character does not find himself in the end. Fortunato, despite the meaning of his name, ends up with a miserable when his supposed friend walls him up in the catacombs. It is therefore ironical that although his name is a reference to an individual with an auspicious life, Fortunato does not live to see it to a happy conclusion due to his untimely end.
The other instance of irony in the story is in reference to its dramatic aspects, especially where Fortunato is dressed as a jester in order to attend the carnival. In the story, it is stated that “The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells” (Poe 212), which shows that while having dressed as a fool, Fortunato does not know that within a few hours, he is indeed going to be made a fool of by Montresor. The means through which Montresor lures him to his house is an instance of being treated like a fool. When Montresor become aware of Fortunato’s cough and asks, “How long have you had that cough?” (Poe 214) just when he plans to wall the latter up alive within the catacombs under his house, it is highly ironical because he does not actually care whether Fortunato has a cough or not. It is also a sign of Montresor’s malicious nature because he is about to kill his friend in the worst way possible and is perhaps a means of making Fortunato feel at ease and not suspect his true intentions.
Irony in the story can also be seen through a tragic sense, where Fortunato, despite having a very bad cough, chooses to go on drinking, declaring “I drink…..to the buried that repose around us” (Poe 214), and not knowing that he within a few minutes, he will also be joining them. In the same scene, Fortunato being a freemason asks Montresor disbelievingly whether he is also a mason to which the latter replies by showing him a trowel that he has been hiding. Fortunato comes to realize the skills of a mason that Montresor has as he looks on as the latter walls him up in the catacombs and leaves him to die. After undertaking this terrible task, Montresor declares that “for half of the century no mortal has disturbed them. Rest in peace” (Poe 217), an ironical statement, which signals an end to Fortunato’s life with dreadful finality, since he will never be able to leave the catacombs whether he is dead or alive.
In conclusion, irony throughout the story shows an extremely evil part of Montresor’s nature since he is able, through making statements laced with irony, to lure an unknowing Fortunato, to his death. Because the story is dark and tragic, irony does not bring about humor but it instead makes possible a show of Fortunato’s gullibility as he is easily manipulated by his supposed friend. Finally, irony is also a means of showing the suspense that occurs in the story because the reader does not get to know about events leading to Montresor’s need for revenge towards Fortunato.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “Cask of Amontillado.” Godeys Ladys Book, November 1846: 212 – 217.