The Cask of Amontillado vs A Rose for Emily: Compare & Contrast
Control of one’s life and one’s affairs is an important matter since it gives a sense of freedom to an individual and a sense of being empowered. Without control, a person may do things which are irrational, illegal, and most important things which are against their will. In the short stories, The Cask of Amontillado, A Rose for Emily, and Cat in the Rain, there are individuals who have lost control and their actions show it quite clear that they are unable to continue as normal functioning individuals.
The first and most disturbing of the three characters is perhaps Emily because she lost control of the changing times and tastes. The town respects her but her past includes falling in love with an outsider who did not find any real resolution as the town remembers it. Emily lost control of her life when her lover wanted to leave her and the only way she could keep him was to kill him. The story is given a particularly gruesome twist when the voice of the town declares that the townspeople “saw a long strand of iron-gray hair (Faulkner, 1930, Pg. 1)” alongside the rotten corpse of the man which is evidence that Emily slept with the dead body years after the man had died. When she was alive, Emily lost control as laws were created by her father who thought of her to be socially better than anyone so much so that he did not let her date and refused the men who did want to marry her. It does seem like Emily was desperate for human contact and love even if it was just a dead body. She sought to control in keeping the world outside her house and to maintain a safe distance so that her secret would not be discovered before her death. She did gain control but the price she paid was tremendous in all respects.
However, she did not give up her search for control and found in one way or another just as the wife did in Cat in the Rain. Her desire for something new and something to brighten her life is defined by the cat in the rain and even she cannot explain why. The wife clarifies that “I don’t know why I wanted it so much. I wanted that poor kitty (Hemingway, 1925, Pg. 1)” but she also alludes to several other things that she wants to do such as change her hairstyle, new silverware, and new clothes but perhaps what she needs the most and cannot control the fact that she does not have it is a new life. The cat becomes a representation of control which the wife does not have and having it becomes her objective and the source of her happiness when she does get the cat. In essence, even though the cat cannot fix her life, since it is an obsession it does bring her some happiness to get the cat.
Obsessions are also what drives the Montresor family member to ensnare and kill Fortunato in an evil trap which makes little sense considering the manner in which Fortunato was taken to the vault. We are not given the name of the hero but we are told that he belongs to “a great and numerous family (Poe, 1846, Pg. 1)” and that he wants to take revenge from Fortunato. This obsession is not well clarified to the audience since we are only told that Fortunato insulted the hero and the patience of the hero was at an end with him. The loss of control takes place both on the part of the hero as well as the victim since the hero loses control of his moral center which leads him to bury Fortunato alive while Fortunato loses control of his senses through drinking. The hero is certainly not drunk since he manages to lay down the masonry and thus imprison Fortunato in a place where no one disturbed him for more than fifty years.
After reading these stories and knowing the characters included within, it becomes easy to see that the characters are willing to do anything to gain control in their lives and they may be led to a point of obsession in their search for control. They may kill for it, or they may passively seek it but the search for control and the search for meaning become almost the same thing. While some of the stories may be considered grotesque or shocking, that does not take anything away from the beauty of the story since the writers have done a tremendous job of presenting the stories with the right words and moving as well as powerful imagery.
Faulkner, W. “A Rose for Emily”. 1930. Ariyam.com. 4 June 2008.
Hemmingway, E. “Cat in the Rain”. 1925. Short Story Classics. 3 June 2008.
Poe, E. “The Cask of Amontillado”. 1846. Wikisource.org. 4 June 2008.