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Edgar Allan Poe is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets and writers in American history. He is known for his mastery of literary techniques like irony, foreshadowing, and symbolism, all of which can be seen in many of his short stories. The Cask of Amontillado is a masterpiece written by Poe to tell a horror story with a revenge theme at its heart. Montresor, the writer, seeks vengeance on Fortunato for certain threats directed at him. The story's success derives from Poe's writing style as well as the inherent fear of death that exists among humans. Death is used as the ultimate revenge in the narration while irony, symbolism, and foreshadowing have been utilized to help establish the conflict that results in suffering. By examining logos, pathos, and ethos in the story, the reader can better understand the importance of the rhetorical elements of a short story.
Logos are a part of persuasion essentials that are used to convince the audience. Particularly, logos involves the use of facts and statistics to deliver accurate information regarding a certain subject. In The Cask of Amontillado, the narrator begins by explaining to his audience that he plans to revenge against Fortunato for insulting him. Nonetheless, Montresor fails to appeal to the readers using logos because he does not give clear facts regarding the insults hailed towards him by Fortunato. Rather, he only presents the readers with a vague grasp of his motives. Markedly, he purports that, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (Poe 1). Evidently, this is a case of an unreliable narrator in Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado in which the guilt of Montresor prevents him from presenting his case truthfully to his audience thus limiting his use of logos to convince the audience that his actions against Fortunato are justified.
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Despite the narration of The Cask of Amontillado from a first-person perspective, the short story lacks the rhetorical element of the use of ethos. Notably, the credibility of Montresor’s voice is diminished by his irrational and inhumane actions towards Fortunato. In the story, the narrator reveals that he chose to make the murder secret. The cause of this is that he probably had not valid reasons to kill Fortunato and thus sort to use illegal means rather than seeking legal retribution. For instance, Montresor reveals that he had intentionally told his workers that he would not come back till morning knowing very well that they would leave the residence (Poe 2). Consequently, no one would know of his actions. The plan to pursue his mission secretly indeed devalues the credibility of the narrator in Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado.
In the narration, pathos has been extensively used as a rhetorical element. Markedly, Montresor is filled with a passion for revenge against Fortunato, thus making his emotions get out of control. Additionally, the narrator appeals to the audience’s emotions by foreshadowing his intentions, as well as creating curiosity in the readers’ minds to discover how he plans to murder his victim.
In the story, death has been used as the ultimate revenge by Montresor. Markedly, the narrators understanding is that revenge should punish without putting the avenger at any risk whatsoever (Poe 1). Notably, Montresor is at no risk as other people are busy with the Carnival celebrations. Further, Montresor asserts that “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” (Poe 1). Montresor receives not punishment for his wrath against his victim, Fortunato. Evidently, the perpetrator seeks to get away with murder which is sufficient proof that death is the ultimate revenge for him.
Irony has been used in the story to demonstrate the suffering endured by the characters. First, Montresor is desperate to lure his victim into his vaults. Consequently, he approaches Fortunato and tells him that he is lucky to have met him (Poe 1). While Fortunato interprets this as a sign of the fondness of Montresor to him, the later has a revengeful plan. Another instance of irony in the story is the toast that Fortunato makes to the dead without knowing that he would be dead within a short period while Montresor makes a toast to the long life of his victim. He asserts, “And I to your long life” (Poe 3). This is ironic since Montresor plans to kill Fortunato in the same vaults where he drinks to his victim’s long life. Further, the use of the name Fortunato seeks to assert that he is lucky. However, it is ironic that he is unlucky in the hands of his killer.
Symbolism has also been utilized in The Cask of Amontillado to reveal the tension that results in suffering. Fortunato’s outfit is an example of symbolism that has been used in Poe’s short story. Notably, “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 1). Fortunato’s outfit represents him as a fool which is indeed a depiction of what he is. Another instance of symbolism is the extreme madness of the carnival season which illustrates the crazy thoughts Montresor possesses.
Poe has also sufficiently used foreshadowing in his story as a sign of what will happen to Fortunato. For instance, the perpetrator tells his victim to go back since his wellbeing is precious and that he would be dearly missed if something bad happened to him (Poe 3). However, we are aware that he plots to kill Fortunato. Finally, Fortunato asserts that he shall not die of a cough (Poe 2). Indeed, the reads are aware that he will die as a result of the vengeful plans of Montresor.
All in all, The Cask of Amontillado is a classic masterpiece that tells the story of Montresor who seeks to revenge upon Fortunato. The narrator does not give facts regarding the kind of insults hailed against him by his victim, thus diminishing the use of logos. Further, Montresor’s credibility or use of ethos is devalued since he seeks to act in secret. Finally, the story utilizes pathos through the narrator’s uncontrollable emotions, as well as the curiosity created among the audience to discover how he plans to revenge. Finally, irony, symbolism, and foreshadowing have been utilized to depict suffering in The Cask of Amontillado.
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Poe, Edgar Allan. The cask of amontillado. The Floating Press, 2016: 1-5.
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