The use of horror and humor in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe is one of the literary features that the author uses to constructs the story. Poe is a manipulative author who uses linguistic techniques with so much ease and combines them with other literary devices such as the point of view, the setting and choice of words to add to the literary quality of his work.
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Poe can maintain a sense of pervasive humour throughout this short story as he combines horror and humour with so much ease. Pervasive humour is also known as grotesque humour, a style of writing in which the author mixes horror and humour for comic effect.
Is “The Cask of Amontillado” a horror story? Poe presents death as grotesque phenomena, yet in a humorous way to achieve comic relief. Through Montresor, the antagonistic, Poe presents death as a joke. He makes death seem like a funny occurrence from the beginning of the story to the end, which adds irony to the situation. Fortunato tells Montressor that he has a cog, but he wouldn’t die of it, to which Montresor agrees joyously in the affirmative and goes on to encourage Fortunato to ‘drink form draught of this Medoc’ to cure his cough (Poe para 37).
Montressor joyous affirmation is humorous, but the use of the term Medoc is horrific as the reader knows that Medoc, the wine already contains poison. Critics argue that Montresor, an unreliable narrator, uses these words not in any attempt to kill Fortunato but for his self-gratification. This means that Montresor finds joy and amusement in death.
The title of the short story is also humorously horrific. The author uses the word cask to mean wine container or barrel. This term, cask, is obtained from the same root name as the casket, which means coffin. Montresor wants to avenge Fortunato’s insult and thus devices a way to kill him.
Therefore, he invites Fortunato to taste from the cask of Amontillado, Amontillado being the new wine. In the short story “The Cask of Amontillado,” Poe’s use of the term cask infers to the casket, the humorous way of referring to Fortunato’s casket (coffin). Thus, the analysis shows that Fortunato is represented as a fool who falls for this joke, not knowing that it signifies his death.
Poe combines this piece of humour with horror by using the term mason. Fortunato’s questions Montresor whether he is a mason, meaning a member of the freemasons, to which Montresor agrees. In grotesque reference to death, Poe uses the term mason to mean a person who constructs using bricks to insinuate that Montresor will create Fortunato’s grave with stone and mortar (Poe paras 60, 76, 89).
The author also uses the name Fortunato to refer to the folly of this particular character humorously and to conceal the grotesque death that awaits him. As is clear from the summary, the name Fortunato is connected to the word fortunate, which means lucky or good fortune. The reader knows that Fortunato is not lucky as there is grotesque death that awaits him.
As such, Poe uses this name to bring comic relief in a tense and gross situation. Fortunato’s dressing apparel is also humorous and is used for the same purpose as his name Fortunato: to conceal the fate that awaits him (Poe para 4). He is dressed in a jolly outfit as a court jester who is a humorous and comic figure. This is in contrast to the unnatural death that waylays him ahead.
The use of humor in “The Cask of Amontillado,” is mostly achieved through the use of Poe’s linguistic prowess. Humour, other than concealing the grotesqueness of the death that awaits Fortunato, also reveals his folly. Fortunato takes a lot of time to realize the joke in the whole affair among foreshadowing techniques. This brings in comic relief and humour, which lifts the gloom from the story.
Poe, Edgar. ‘The Cask of Amontillado.’ n.d. May 26, 2011